Can Tortoises Eat Daisies? (No, Here’s Why)

No, it’s not recommended that you give or allow your tortoise to eat daisies. Daisies contain saponins and tannins, two compounds that can be toxic to tortoises and other small animals. Don’t panic if your tort has a little munch, but do try and avoid them.

Can Tortoises Eat Daisies

Are Daisies Poisonous or Toxic to Tortoises?

Despite an innocent appearance and growing in abundance around where I live, daisies can actually be toxic to children and small animals.

It really comes down to two compounds; saponins and tannins.

Saponins are compounds that do not affect adults much but can cause allergic reactions and other symptoms in children. They’re also harmful to small animals, like tortoises.

There is not a lot of research into the effects of saponins on tortoises, but it’s widely believed these compounds can have a negative effect on their health so it’s better to avoid them

A similar thing can be said about tannins. Again, I couldn’t find any detailed research into the effects of tannins on tortoises but it’s known that this compound has some negative health effects on reptiles.

Again, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when feeding tortoises. So, I would keep plants with high levels of tannins to a minimum, if you feed them to tortoises at all.

The interesting thing is that tortoises are very adept at surviving in the wild and instinctively know no what they should and should not eat. I’ve never seen a tortoise trying to eat a daisy while grazing, so they do seem to know they’re bad.

What Do Tortoises Eat?

Feeding tortoises it’s pretty straightforward, and a lot of fun.

The rule of thumb when feeding tortoises is to try and give them as many of the foods as they would eat in their natural habitats in the wild as you can.

There are various species of tortoise that are commonly kept as pets, broadly speaking they are split into two different categories:

  • Tropical rainforest species, and
  • Species native to grasslands or desert environments

Some of the common species of rainforest tortoises kept as pets are:

  • Yellow-Footed tortoise 
  • Red-Footed tortoise
  • Elongated tortoises

In their natural environment, these tortoises will roam over a wide area grazing on a wide variety of seasonally available foods.

The interesting thing about these species is that they eat a fair amount of fruit in the wild, this is the main difference between these species and those native to desert climates.

Some of the species of tortoise that are native to drier climates and eat very few, if any fruits in the wild includes:

  • Hermann’s tortoise
  • African Sulcata
  • Horsfield’s (Russian) tortoise
  • Indian Star tortoise
  • Leopard tortoise

If you have one of these species, you can still give them small amounts of fruit but don’t be surprised if they are not interested in eating them.

Fruit, in general, should only make up a small amount of a tortoise’s diet, around 5%. The sugar content is not ideal for tortoises, and they spoil a lot quicker anyway.

Interesting Note: A lot of tortoise owners are not 100% sure what species they have, so don’t feel bad if you’re not sure. Get your tort identified if you’re not sure!

What to Feed Your Tortoise?

As mentioned above, you need to know what species of tort you have so you can get a better idea of what they would eat in the wild.

Generally speaking, however, as long as you’re providing plenty of variation and know the foods you’re giving your tort are safe, you’ll soon enough find out what they love eating.

To give you a better idea of what tortoise owners commonly feed their pets, here are some lists of safe foods:

Plants Tortoises Can Eat

Plants and vegetables make up the bulk of tortoises’ diet. Here are some of the plants that are safe for them, so which are easy to grow at home:

  • Plantain
  • Dock leaves
  • Aloe vera
  • Brambles (remove thorns!)
  • Hibiscus
  • Evening primrose
  • Mustard leaves
  • Forget-me-nots
  • MulberryChicory
  • Chickweed
  • Clover

Weeds Tortoises Can Eat

Do you have a lot of weeds in your yard? Tortoises love weeds, and a lot of them make for nutritious snacks.

Here are some of the weeds known to be safe for tortoises:

  • Hawksbit
  • Hensbit
  • Mallow
  • Filaree
  • Dandelions
  • Trefoil
  • Wild onion
  • Wild mustard
  • Wild Garlic
  • Wild onion
  • Wild mustard
  • Wild Garlic
  • Smooth Sow thistle
  • Prickly Sow thistle
  • Nettles

Related Here’s why dandelions are great for tortoises.

Vegetables Tortoises Can Eat

Vegetables are one of the best ways you can provide nutritionally dense foods for your tort. Here are some vegetables that tortoises love:

  • Broccoli
  • Pumpkin
  • Cucumber
  • Red cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Parsnip
  • Squashes
  • Kale

Fruits Tortoises Can Eat

As mentioned above, not all species of tortoises eat fruits in their natural environment. Still, as long as you only give them fruits in moderation (less than 5% of their diet) it’s fine.

Here are some of the fruits that are safe for tortoises:

  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Peaches
  • Kiwi
  • Pear
  • Apple
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Banana
  • Figs
  • Papaya

Important Note: It’s hard to cover every possible food, plant, fruit, etc. When feeding a new food, always take the time to check if it’s safe for your tort!

Summary

If you let your tortoise graze where they are daisies, you don’t need to panic. Most tortoises will avoid them as they know so they pose a threat, but it is something you need to be aware of.

Caring for tortoises is fairly straightforward, and a lot of fun. As long as you provide your tortoise with a well-balanced and varied diet of foods that are safe for them I’m sure they’ll live long, healthy lives.

Resources

Image credits – Canva.com

The biological action of saponins in animal systems – Pubmed.ncbi

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