Archive for Plants

Elaphoglossum peltatum

Elaphoglossum peltatum is one of my favorite tiny ferns. I’m not going to write a big complicated post about them right now. Just share some photos of this beautiful little fern.

If you want one of these, they’re actually available on Amazon. (This is an associates link. If you purchase through this link, I’ll get a commission.)


This fern is variable, so it may look like a couple different species, but the photos below are all E peltatum.

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Edible Plants for Turtles and Tortoises in Your Yard

In the wild, turtles and tortoises have unlimited options of what to eat, giving them a varied and diverse diet. In captivity, many keepers stick to what they’re familiar with, seriously limiting the variety of foods their animals get. While those foods may provide a complete diet, finding edible plants for turtles and tortoises in your yard and garden can add enjoyment for both you and your animals. Personally, I have a lot of fun identifying plants and finding out whether they’re edible (for myself or my animals).

things to feed box turtles

When foraging for food, be sure you know if chemicals have been used in an area. Common garden chemicals are usually poisonous. If it’s not your yard or garden, be sure to ask the owner before picking anything, and ask what chemicals they use. If it’s your own yard, there are natural alternatives that you can use for most issues that will maintain an edible and safe yard for your turtles and tortoises.

Our garden has started going crazy. The previous owner had planted a lot of stuff and kinda let it go. While we like the vigorous growth, we don’t necessarily like all of her plant choices, so we’ve been replacing some plants with preferred options, and identifying things as we go.

edible nasturtiums

One of the things we planted for multiple purposes is Nasturtiums. They are edible to a variety of our animals, as well as edible for humans. They should be fed to tortoises in moderation due to their levels of oxalic acid.

succulents turtle food

There are several types of sedum that can be found all over the garden. Thankfully they don’t choke out other plants, because they have spread everywhere. They’re a great option for feeding to tortoises. They were the first to get eaten when I gave mine a handful of different options.

can turtles eat coral bells

We have masses of coral bells in the garden. These are edible, but should be fed in moderation due to the high levels of tannins they contain. They are easily available at nurseries and look nice in the garden.

pansies for turtle food

The pansies are a new addition in our garden this year, taking the place of a large invasive plant that was ripped out in late winter. Pansies are edible to people and turtles and tortoises. The flowers can be added to salads for human consumption, and the turtles and tortoises will eat any part of it. To keep them going all summer, remove the flowers when they start to wilt. The turtles will eat the wilted flowers too.

Edible Plants for Turtles and Tortoises in Your Yard

If you have a yard or garden of any size, you’ve probably had dandelions. They’re a good food for turtles and tortoises, but act as a diuretic, so they should be fed as part of a varied diet. If you have the space, set aside a corner of your garden for edible weeds like dandelions to grow pesticide free.

strawberry plants turtles tortoises

The strawberries aren’t fruiting yet, but in a few weeks, the box turtles will really enjoy the crop of berries. Many tortoises are not able to properly digest fruit, so make sure you know if fruit is appropriate for your tortoise before feeding them berries.

male eastern box turtle

Recently a friend pointed me to The Tortoise Table Plant Database phone app. This app has over 800 plants with pictures and info on each one to help you identify plants. It will tell you if they’re harmful and why, or if they’re edible, or to feed in moderation. It’s free and definitely worth downloading if you’d like to start exploring for edible plants in for turtles and tortoises in your yard.

Our sister site, Bones & Fishes, has a more pictures and info on turtle gardening.

Lepanthes calodictyon Blooming

Remember this picture of my Lepanthes calodictyon mini orchid? It was really hard to see the bud… but it bloomed! I had to look reeeeeeeally closely, and even then I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. I had to get my camera out to even verify that it was a flower!

Mini Orchid bug Lepanthes calodictyon

Lepanthes calodictyon has a teeny tiny itty bitty miniscule little flower, but it’s beautiful! I’ve wanted this mini orchid since I started seeing it in other vivariums on Dendroboard and some great pages on Facebook. At first, I didn’t buy it because I was worried that I’d kill it, but after visiting Seattle Orchid, I couldn’t resist any longer and decided to give it a try. Apparently, I’m successful! It took a while to find the right location in the vivarium, but the mini orchid is mounted on a tiny cork panel, so I was able to move it around to find the right location.

It’s really hard to get a steady picture of a miniscule flower, right before bed in the middle of the night, but I gave it my best shot. It looks like it might have another bud coming in, so maybe I’ll get another chance soon.

Mini Orchid bug Lepanthes calodictyon

No, you really don’t understand. It’s TINY. I have fruit flies larger than this flower. Pick up a penny and look at it, then look at this picture again. I’m blown away by the size of it!

Mini Orchid bug Lepanthes calodictyon

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40 Gallon Viv July Update

The 40 gallon vivarium has continued to do well. The plants are filling in nicey

This tiny Microgramma fern is growing above the waterfall, just to the right. It’s done pretty well, even with the soggy substrate.


I added a bit of Christmas Moss in the space next to the Microgramma. Christmas Moss is typically grown in aquariums, but it can adapt to terrestrial growth as well. I’m not sure exactly what the moss around it is. That moss was sold as an unknown “tropical moss”. Most of the original “tropical moss” has died off and what’s there now is new growth. It’s not too bad, but I’m hoping the Christmas Moss will look a bit better.


The Peacock Spikemoss remains one of my favorites in this tank.


Ficus villosa and Rhaphidophora cryptantha are happily growing side by side. They’re both about to hit the top though


The Solanum vine has really taken off! I’ve had to trim it twice, and that causes the mother vine to shoot out multiple new vines. It’s definitely doing its best to take over the back wall. 


Closeup of the Azureus! They don’t often hold still long enough to get a close up.


The Azureus is hunting among the oak leaf fig and the Peperomia prostrata.


The little begonia grew from a bit of broken leaf.


The sphagnum moss doesn’t seem to like this spot very well. I added a bit of Christmas Moss to help fill it in. I may end up moving the sphagnum instead. Since the Christmas Moss is aquatic, it should be pretty happy in this location.


I didn’t even realize it was putting out new buds until I looked at the pictures, but the little Lepanthes calodictyon seems to like its new home now. I can hardly wait for it to bloom!


I moved the Marcgravia rectiflora up higher in the tank a few weeks ago. I suspect it wasn’t getting enough light down below. It hasn’t done much in its new location yet, but it also hasn’t lost another leaf.


And a bonus shot of one of the Matecho.


If you like the plant and frog pictures, I update Instagram almost daily. There are lots of pictures of dogs mixed in, but also a lot of herpetiles and plants.

June Update of the 40 Gallon Build

The tank has been growing in nicely. If the goal was to make vines happy, then it’s been a wild success! haha The vines have quickly become my favorites. The Solanum has been trimmed twice now. I put the trimmings back in the tank to root and fill in. 

Manuran's mystery vine Solanum Bromiliad

I added a new fern, Lemmaphyllum microphyllum. It hasn’t taken off, but the other fern is doing so well, I expect this one will too.

Lemmaphyllum microphyllum tropical fern moss

It’s no surprise that the Oak Leaf ficus is doing well. It’s mixing with live Sphagnum for a nice mixture of textures.

 Lemmaphyllum microphyllum Solanum tropical vine oak leaf fig

The Marcgravia rectiflora is the one plant that hasn’t taken off. Unless it’s creating a bunch of roots that I haven’t noticed, it hasn’t done anything except drop a couple leaves. I plan on moving it as soon as I figure out what it would like better. I’m thinking the upper right side of the tank might be a better location.

The Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Cebu Blue’ cutting lost a leaf as well, but immediately started growing new starts after the first one dropped. It should do well now that it’s acclimated.

In the middle of this shot is a small begonia that just started sprouting from a leaf cutting. That should provide some of the foliage cover that I’ve been wanting for the frogs to hide under if they want.

dart frog vivarium plants epipremnum

A few other things have started to sprout as well, all on their own. Whatever they are, I think they came in on the moss. The bright green one by the glass on the lower right hand side is probably the same type of begonia as the previous picture. There’s a small sprout by the frog’s foot that is completely unidentified at this point. The Mini Red Tree Peperomia cuttings have finally rooted and are starting to take off.

Dendtrobates tinctorius matecho fern moss begonia

The Peperomia prostrata is growing in a lot thicker than I expected, but I love the dark coloration it’s getting with the lights.

Dendrobates tinctorius matecho Peperomia prostrata

Riccia is covering the water feature almost completely now.

dart frog tank water feature riccia

This is one of the Solanum cuttings that I put back in the tank. It’s pinned down with a toothpick, but it looks like it’s rooted enough to be able to remove the toothpick now. I really like the moss growing here as well. 

tropical dart frog vine moss Manuran's mystery vine oak leaf ficus sphagnum

The Rhaphidophora is peeking out behind the Ficus villosa.

Rhaphidophora ficus villosa

End of May Update

Just waiting for the Tinc tank to fill up with moss, and wishing the Veradero tank didn’t grow so fast! The Azureus are fattening up nicely. They were a little on the thin side when I got them, but they have a big appetite and are putting on weight.


The moss is starting to take off, but it seems pretty slow anyhow. I’m probably going to re-landscape a bit and move some of the fern moss to a different tank, and give some of the tropical moss (in the picture below) more room to fill in on the floor. I love the fern moss, but it seems a bit difficult for the frogs to maneuver over.


This vine has quickly become one of my favorite plants! As much as I like the rainbow Selaganella, that corner needed a little more depth, and this vine is perfect. I believe it is Cissus amazonica.


Here’s a full shot of the Tinc tank. I temporarily have the young frogs growing up together in here, until I get a new tank built for the Matecho pair. Several new plants have been added, including a small philodendron (dead center) and Ficus sp. “Panama” (just left of the waterfall) from Some tiny begonias have started to sprout from leaf cuttings tucked around the edges, so the next shot may have a bit more foliage. The jars in front contain a bunch of plant cuttings that are rooting or waiting for the next tank.


The Varedaro are happy in their tank, and fattening up as well. Judging on body type, it looks like I may have 2 males and 3 females. So far, I can only confirm one male, but I’m keeping an eye out to try to confirm a second. I plan on splitting the group up soon to help determine the genders, and give the pairs space for when they start breeding.

veradero-A-May-31-2014 veradero-B-May-31-2014

How Long Does it Take a Dart Frog Tank to Get Overgrown?

About 30 seconds.

Tradescantia fluminensis wandering jew dart frog tank

Ok, a couple weeks longer than that. This tank was put together 7 weeks ago, and now the tallest terrarium plants have hit the top and are growing sideways. I’m going to trim them in the next day or two and root the trimmings for another tank. This is a pretty good example of how choosing the right terrarium plants for your tank can affect the upkeep necessary.

A lot of these plants are considered common or beginners’ plants, so I’m going to address this post to newer amphibian keepers. Although I’m keeping dart frogs, these plants are suitable for many other amphibians and some reptiles as well.

If you want your tank to fill in quickly, several of the plants I put in this tank may be the right choice for you. These plants will also do well with tree frogs and ground frogs. I’ve kept several of these terrarium plants with Tomato Frogs, Big Eyed Treefrogs (a couple different Leptopelis species), Fire Bellied Toads, and a variety of others, even including Whites Tree Frogs. Whites will crush these plants, so they’re best used as a filler around branches or heavier plants, but they will recover quickly, so they can do well with the larger frogs.

The predominant plant in this tank is Tradescantia fluminensis, commonly referred to as “Wandering Jew”. It’s a very common plant for dart frog keepers, frequently found as a house plant, and considered an invasive species in many parts of the world, including the Southeastern US. As you can see from my tank, if it likes the conditions, it explodes.

Also in this tank are two small ferns (one is visible on the right side of the photo if you look closely), an unidentified Columbian Peperomia, an unidentified small Philodendron, Selaginella kraussiana, Pellionia repens, and Ficus pumila. All of these are great terrarium plants.

Here are some pictures of a few of the plants before they were put in the tank.

philodendron dart frog tank

I always thought this philodendron would get larger as it aged, but so far this is about as big as the leaves get, making it pretty suitable for terrariums. If you have a larger tank, other more common Philodendrons will work too. I have kept some larger Philodendron species in a 55 gallon tank with Whites Tree Frogs, and it worked out pretty well.

small ferns dart frog tank

I imagine these ferns will eventually outgrow the tank, but they grow quite a bit slower than any of the other plants in there. These were purchased at a nursery and carefully treated to remove any chemicals over a few weeks time. Plant nurseries often carry terrarium plants and may have a section dedicated to them, like the one near me has. Keep in mind that these plants may have been treated with chemicals, such as bug spray or fertilizers. Wash them carefully before exposing your frogs to them.

pellionia repens terrarium plant

Pellionia repens is often called “Watermelon plant” or “Watermelon vine”, which is pretty ambiguous. Google “watermelon vine terrarium” and you’ll get a dozen different species on the first half of the first page. This is a good example of why I prefer scientific names (when I can remember them!).

Pellionia repens will take over a tank as well, just not quite as fast as Tradescantia fluminensis (Wandering Jew). This cutting was given to me by a fellow dart frog keeper. You can find vendors who will sell and ship it to you with a quick google search. A similar species, Pellionia daveauana, has been available at Home Depot in my area recently. It will also work, but be aware that it may be treated with chemicals and wash it before use.

peperomia sp columbia pellionia repens terrarium

This Peperomia was collected in Columbia and given to me at a reptile show. It has large leaves, but remains pretty leggy, so even when it takes over (which it will try to do as well), it doesn’t choke the tank up quite as bas as Tradescantia fluminensis. 

Many Peperomia are commonly available. While you may not be able to find this specific type, there are hundreds of Peperomia species, and many are suitable terrarium plants.


Pacific Northwest Moss and Liverworts

Bryophytes have always fascinated me, and growing up in that part of the country Pacific Northwest Moss and Liverworts especially have captured my interest. I’m always a bit horrified when the springtime moss-killing-chemical ads come on the radio at the beginning of every year. This stuff looks better than grass to me!

pacific northwest liverworts step moss

After a recent hike in old growth forests, I felt the urge to find a place where I could collect some native mosses and see if any of them will adapt to the conditions of dart frog tanks. Many native Pacific Northwest mosses require a dormant period each year, so this experiment could be a complete failure. But if the experiment is successful, it could yeild some pretty cool plants for frog tanks.

This is Badge Moss, scientific name Plagiomnium insinge. It appears more “leafy” than the other Pacific Northwest moss I saw, almost like a tiny ground cover vine. It is considered a “true moss”, however, and will develop clusters of 3 to 6 sporophytes at the tips.

badge moss pacific northwestbadge moss step moss sphagnum peat

This is Step Moss, Hylocomium splendens, my favorite out of the bunch. This moss grows world-wide in cooler climates or higher elevations. The name “Step Moss” comes from its growth pattern, where each new year’s growth starts from the middle of the previous year’s frond, forming a new “step” each year. In different parts of the world, the speed of growth and age the plant reaches will vary, but the new step per year is typically true for this part of the world.

washington state step moss washington oregon british columbia alaska moss identification

It’s a bit blurry, but a new frond is starting to grow out of this one.

pacific northwest step moss

Comb Liverwort, scientific name Riccardia multifida, a small-ish liverwort. To the right is another liverwort, even smaller than the Comb Liverwort. I belive this is Yellow-Ladel Liverwort, or Scapania bolanderi.

pacific north west comb liverwortliverwort identification moss washington state

A close up of the Comb Liverwort, complete with hemlock needles and dog hair. Spring is in the air, after all, and by that I mean shedding dog hair!

liverwort up close macro identification

This appears to be Spread-Leaved Peat Moss or Shaggy Sphagnum, scientific name Sphagnum squarrosum. There are several Sphagnum species that look very similar, so I’m not 100% sure on this ID, but best matched the photos in the guide book and online.

Spread Leaved Peat Moss Shaggy  Sphagnum squarrosum

These plants were identified with the help of Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast and the internet.  Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast is a really great book, with entries for every plant I’ve tried to ID so far, including the Pacific Northwest moss and liverwort in this post. I highly recommend it to anyone in the Pacific Northwest. However, if you think I identified any of the plants incorrectly, please let me know!

40 Gallon Vivarium Plants Finally!

Finally, some work on the tank! The pump is in place and running. I started by adding some moss. It always looks kinda awkward to me at that stage, but it’s not so bad when I step back and take a look at the whole thing. I can hardly wait for the moss to fill in though. It’ll look MUCH better then. My vivarium plants have been living in small jar terrariums, awaiting this step.


After the moss, I started adding plants.

planted vivarium tank

I have more lights ordered, but for now I just have the one going.

vivarium plants dart frogs

vivarium plants moss vines


Neoregelia “Chiquita Linda” bromiliads on either side of the waterfall where I seeded some Riccia. I need to put some more Riccia in, but my goal is to have the entire background covered in moss and Riccia.

vivarium plants bromiliads

I added some small bits of riccia from the Jewel Orchid terrarium. These contain some small fern gametophyes as well.

terrarium vivarium moss riccia

Neoregelia “Chiquita Linda” bromiliads, Ficus villosa, Syngonium rayii, and fern moss.

bromiliads ficus villosa fern moss terrarium

Oak leaf ficus on the background. The fuzzy Ficus villosa in the foreground.

vivarium oak leaf ficus terrarium

Ficus villosa and Syngonium rayii. The plants are a bit over-exposed, but the Syngonium rayii is a beautiful very dark velvety green.

Ficus villosa Syngonium rayii vivarium plants

I have multiple empty pots still. I have to figure out what to put in them. I think that’s a pretty good reason to order more plants!

neoregelia chiquita linda vivarium plants bromiliads

Neoregelia “Chiquita Linda” bromiliads and fern moss.

Neoregelia Chiquita Linda bromiliads fern moss

This little vine is known as “Manuran’s mystery vine” on Dendroboard. I don’t know what it is, but it’s one of my favorites. A lot of this is new growth since I got it. Most of the leaves it had during shipping have died, but it really took off after that.

Manuran's mystery vine vivarium plants vines moss

Marcgravia rectiflora is a really cool shingling plant. This little cutting should be really impressive once it starts climbing.

Marcgravia rectiflora vivarium plants sphagnum moss

I used pins to hold things in place temporarily.

Marcgravia rectiflora terrarium dart frog

The water feature isn’t quite done. I’m not sure what it needs yet, but I’m not totally happy with it yet. It’s definitely better than before, because I wasn’t able to have the depth I wanted between the two “roots” in the smaller tank. The taller tank gives me a lot more to work with.

vivarium plants water feature moss Marcgravia rectiflora

Live Sphagnum moss and “tropcal moss” from Blue Pumilio.

vivarium plants moss terrarium

Another shot of “Manuran’s mystery vine”. You can kinda see the moss that piggy backed in on it. It’ll be interesting to see how that spreads.

vivarium plants terrarium vines

2L Jewel Orchid Terrarium

This 2 liter terrarium has been going for a few years now, but has really started taking off recently after putting it under new lights.

I’ve had the jewel orchid forever, and I can’t remember where it came from now. It wasn’t doing very well a few months ago and seemed to be getting eaten by something. After watching closely for a few days, I found a tiny snail that had been eating it. You can see some small brown spots on the leaves that seem to have been caused by the snail. After removing the snail, all the new leaves are perfect.

jewel orchid ricia

Riccia is a liverwort that is usually grown aquatic in tropical aquariums, but it can also grow terrestrially with a little effort. Getting it switched over took a little while, but with the right humidity and enough light, it’s pretty happy.

riccia fern gamephyte

I had a tiny fern in this terrarium, but it slowly died off. There’s only one half dead frond left. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t getting enough light with the old lights. After getting new lights, all of these tiny green things started popping up all over the substrate. I’m pretty sure they’re gametophytes, a stage in the fern life cycle. Basically, fern sprouts.

riccia fern gamephyte

I think I’m going to have to start removing riccia soon to stop it from smothering the young ferns. The timing should be pretty good for the viv I’m working on. Some riccia will work well in the water feature of that tank.

riccia fern gamephyte

I’m not sure how long it’ll take to get to the next stage, but here’s a chart of the life cycle of ferns.

fern life cycle sporangium sporophyte gametophyte