Can Tortoises Eat Dandelions? (A Tort Favorite!)

Yes, tortoises can eat dandelions. In fact, dandelions are one of a tortoises’ favorite plants and provide some decent nutrition as part of an overall balanced diet. Here is a look at the benefits, potential risks, and ways you can feed your tortoise dandelions.

Can Tortoises Eat Dandelions

Are Dandelions Good for Tortoises?

Dandelions (scientific name Taraxacum officinale) are a tort favorite and they provide some decent nutrition. Best of all, they grow all over my yard and the local neighborhood so it’s easy for me to get hold of some!

The only possible downside is that dandelions can be quite high in oxalates, which is a compound we should avoid giving to tortoises in large amounts.

We’re not talking dangerous levels though, and the key to feeding tortoises is always variation and moderation so as long as you’re only giving your tort some dandelions a couple of days a week or so, there is no risk.

There are several parts to a dandelion; the stem, leaves, yellow flower, seeds, and bud, all of which are fine for tortoises.

You can feed your tort any parts you want. Mine does not eat the seeds, and I can’t say I blame him, but he munches up the leaves, stems, and flowers pretty quickly.

In case you were in doubt, here is a video of a cute Russian tortoise tucking into a pile of tasty dandelions!

An interesting little fact; if tortoises eat dandelions regularly it’s been known to turn their urine pink!

What Other Weeds Can Tortoises Eat?

Tortoises love weeds, and I love being able to get rid of weeds by feeding them to my tortoise – so it’s a win-win.

I’ve done some research, and here is a list of just some of the weeds that are known to be safe – and tasty – for tortoises:

  • Hawksbit
  • Hensbit
  • Mallow
  • Filaree
  • Wild onion
  • Wild mustard
  • Wild Garlic
  • Smooth Sow thistle
  • Prickly Sow thistle
  • Nettles
  • Trefoil
  • Wild onion
  • Wild mustard
  • Wild Garlic
  • Clover
  • Milk thistle
  • Goat head weed
  • Cats ear
  • Broadleaf plantain
  • Narrow leaf plantain
  • Chick weed
  • Hawksbeard

Related Here’s why you should see if your tortoise likes lavender.

You don’t just have to feed them weeds, there are loads of plants that are also great for tortoises and provide all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Here are some of the plants that are safe to feed tortoises:

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

Author Note: Many of these plants and weeds can be easily grown year-round if you want to make sure your tort has a constant supply of food.

What Should You Feed Tortoises for a Balanced Diet?

Weeds and plants, along with vegetables will make up the bulk of a tortoise’s diet. Although, it’s very important that you give your tort as varied a diet as possible.

The rule of thumb when feeding a tortoise is to try and replicate what their diet would be in the wild as closely as possible.

To do this, you need to know what species of tortoise you have and what kind of terrain it is native to.

To help you out, broadly speaking tortoises are split into two groups; species that are native to rainforests and similar climates, and the species that are native to deserts and arid climates.

For example, some of the species that are commonly kept as pets that come from South America and tropical climates are:

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

The diet for these species of tortoise is made up primarily of wild plants and foliage throughout the summer, and they will eat a lot more fruit later in the year as it falls from the plants.

Some of the species that are commonly kept as pets that come from Europe, desserts, and less tropical areas include:

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

These tortoises eat a lot less, if any fruits in their diets naturally, so it’s not as necessary for you to feed them fruit.

They also graze on very different plants. So no, if you’re really interested to know what your tortoise really wants to eat, you should do a little research into where your species of tortoise comes from.

What Vegetables Can Tortoises Eat?

Although tortoises are omnivores, depending on your species, greens are likely to make up at least 80% of their diet.

Torts love vegetables, and vegetables provide some great nutrition and added variety to their diet – not to mention you get to recycle some leftovers!

Here are some of the best veggies to feed to your hard-shelled friend:

  • Broccoli
  • Pumpkin
  • Squashes
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Radish
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Red cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Cauliflower
  • Parsnip

What Fruits Can Tortoises Eat?

As mentioned above, if you have a species of tortoise that would eat fruits in the wild like the yellow and red-footed tortoise, you can add some fruits into their diet.

Here are some tort favorites:

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

Things to Keep In Mind When Feeding Tortoises

Not every weed, plant, and vegetable is safe for tortoises to eat. Before feeding your tortoise something for the first time, you should always check it’s safe for them.

This isn’t a complete list, but here are some of the common things that are known to be potentially dangerous or toxic:

Plants That Are Toxic to Tortoises

  • Azalea
  • Holly
  • Morning glories
  • Hemlock
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Yew
  • Foxglove
  • Buttercups
  • Tiger Lily
  • Hydrangea
  • Ivy/Poison Ivy
  • Mistletoe
  • Rhododendron

Other Foods That Are Toxic to Tortoises

  • Yogurt
  • Beans
  • Rhubarb
  • Bread
  • Citrus fruits
  • Parts of nightshade plants
  • Chili Peppers
  • Avocado

Author Note: If you’re not currently aware of what plants are in your yard and where your tort will graze, it’s time to find out!

Summary

Dandelions are safe for tortoises to eat and are probably one of the most common plants/foods that owners give their tortoises – at least where I live it’s the case.

I also listed plenty of ever weeds, flowers, and greens that are safe for your tort. You should now have more than enough ideas as to what you can give your tort, good luck!

Resources

Image credits – Taken by author; copyright PetAdviceHub.com

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