Can Tortoises Eat Dock Leaves? (A Tort Favorite)

Yes, tortoises can eat dock leaves. There are some mixed views from owners about dock leaves, but many owners feed them to their tortoises on occasion without issue. The issue is that dock leaves are high in oxalic acid, but fine in moderation.

Can Tortoises Eat Dock Leaves

Are Dock Leaves Good for Tortoises?

Tortoises need a wide range of greens in their diet to maintain optimal health. Dock leaves are nothing special in terms of vitamin and mineral content but are fine as part of a varied diet.

For us, dock leaves provide some interesting health benefits. They are good for skin health, have antioxidant properties, are used to promote better moods, and more.

None of this applies to tortoises, but if you have easy access to dock leaves there’s no harm in seeing if your tortoise likes them.

Interestingly, when talking about dock leaves within the community, most owners say that their tortoise is not interested in eating them – but there’s only one way to find out!

Can Dock Leaves Be Poisonous or Toxic to Tortoises?

Some owners do air some concerns about feeding dock leaves to their tortoises. This is because the leaves and the stem of dock plants contain oxalic acid.

This is what gives this plant its sour flavor, but oxalic acid is also known to prevent the assimilation of certain minerals like calcium and iron.

Calcium is one of the most important minerals for tortoises. They use calcium for bone and shell development, which is obviously very important for young tortoises.

So, I understand why some owners say they will not feed their tortoise dock leaves, but at the same time, I know plenty of owners that give their tort dock leaves on occasion without issue.

Author Note: The bottom line is that dock leaves are not toxic or poisonous, so as long as you feed them in moderation and as part of a varied diet, it’s fine.

What Should Your Tortoise’s Diet Consist Of?

A lot of new owners stress about what to feed their tortoise, and it’s not helped by the fact that they often slowly graze on food and sometimes seem to go days without eating.

But it’s really not difficult to feed tortoises. The main consideration is what species of tortoise you have, as their diets can vary based on what they would have eaten in the wild.

To help you work out what the best foods are to feed your tortoise, you need to know exactly what species it is if impossible.

Broadly speaking, your tortoise is going to fall into one of two categories;

Tortoises that are native to climates and terrains where they eat mostly plants, flowers, and general foliage:

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

Tortoises that would eat some fruit in the diet in the wild:

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

This isn’t a complete list of the tortoises that people keep as pets across the country, but I think that covers most of them.

If your tortoise isn’t listed above, then the best advice is always to learn as much as you can about them and how they live in the wild, if applicable.

Plants You Can Feed Your Tortoise

Plants make up a big part of a tortoises’ diet in the wild so you should feed them plant matter daily.

A lot of the best plants can easily be grown in pots or the yard, too, which makes it easy, fun, and economical.

Here are just some of the plants that are safe for tortoises:

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

Vegetables You Can Feed Your Tortoise

Vegetables are great for tortoises as they are packed with a good range of nutrition. Here are some veggies that are safe for tortoises:

Fruits You Can Feed Some Tortoises

Some species of tortoise, like the yellow and red-footed tortoises, munch on fruits in the wild and will enjoy nibbling on some in their terrarium.

Some of the most well-known fruits that are safe are:

Things to Avoid Feeding Your Tortoise

Tortoise can eat most of the plants and foods that grow naturally and are commonly available, but there are some that you need to be aware of if you’re going to let your tortoise out to graze.

Here are some of the fruits, vegetables, and plants that are on the banned list as they may be toxic or harmful in some way:

Fruits, Vegetables, and Foods to Avoid

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

Plants to Avoid

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

Important Note: Tortoises have sensitive digestive systems, if you’re not sure about something you want to feed to them – err on the side of caution and don’t give it to them.


Dock leaves are perfectly safe for tortoises to eat in moderation. Moderation is the key here, you should prioritize giving your tort plenty of greens and variety in their diet.

The closer you can replicate what your toddlers would eat in the wild, the happier and healthier they’re going to be. Along with a few helpings of dock leaves, of course.


Image credits – Taken by author; copyright

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