We are often asked what plants can my turtles, tortoises, and other animals eat. Very little research has been carried out into poisonings in Chelonia, compared with that done on poisonings in humans, other mammals, fish, and birds. In the absence of definitive research, we felt it was easier to create a list of plants that are NOT good for your animals…. and probably your kids too!
Tortoises often don’t appear to know which foods are good to eat and which are not, and there is some evidence of tortoises dying after eating plants such as Buttercups, Daffodils, and Foxgloves.
How do I know if my plant is poisonous?
Try to identify all the plants that you have in your garden or yard. Make a list of their names and look them up on our website for a guide as to their safety.
Also, you may take a large cutting of the plant (including the flower where possible), to your local garden center or nursery and ask them to identify it for you. Once your plants have been identified, always write their Latin names down alongside the common name. This is important as sometimes different plants share the same common names and can only be accurately identified by their Latin name.
*Different plant lists may give varying opinions as to the safety of certain plants for reptiles. It is, therefore, our responsibility to learn which plants are toxic and may poison our animals.
Toxic Plants Include
Acokanthera – Acokanthera spp. (all parts toxic, except ripe fruit)
Amaryllis – Amaryllis spp.
Angel’s Trumpet – Datura spp., (leaves, seeds, flowers)
Apricot – Prunus armeniaca (pits, leave and bark)
Apple – Malus spp., (seeds, leaves, bark)
Avocado – Persea Americana (pit, leaves, unripe fruit, stems)
Azalea – Rhododendron canadenis
Balsam Pear, Bitter Melon – Momordica charantia
Baneberry – Actaea rubra, A. pachypoda
Belladonna – Atropa belladonna
Bird of Paradise – Poinciana and related spp. (seed pods and flowers)
Bittersweet – Celastrus spp.
Black Locust – Robinia pseudoacacia
Boxwood – Boxus spp.
Braken Fern – Pteridium aquilinum
Buckthorn – Karwinskia humboldtiana and related spp.
Burdock – Arctium spp.
Buttercup – Ranunculus spp.
Caladium – Caladium spp.
Calla Lily – Zantedeschia aethiopica
Catclaw Acacia – Acacia greggii (twigs and leaves)
Caster Bean – Ricinus communis
Cherry – Prunus spp. (pits, leaves and bark)
Chinaberry – Melia azadarach
Clematis – Clematis montana and related spp.
Coral Plant – Jatropha mutifida
Crocus (autumn) – Cholochicumautumnale
Cycad or Sago Cycas – Cycas revoluta
Daffodil – Narcissus tazetta
Daphne – Daphne mezerum
Death Camas – Zigadenus venenosus and other related species
Delphinium – Delphinium spp.
Devil’s Ivy – Epipremnum aureum
Dieffenbachia (dumb cane) – Dieffenbachia spp.
Eggplant – Solonummelongena (unripe/ripe fruit, leaves)
Elderberry – Sambucus mexicana (roots, leaves, stems, bark)
Elephant’s Ears or Taro – Colocasia spp.
Euonymus – Euonymus spp. (filit, bark, leaves)
European Pennyroyal – Mentha pulegium
Figs – Ficus spp. (sap)
Four o’clock – Mirabilis jalapa
Heliotrope – Heliotropium spp. (leaves)
Henbane – Hyoscyamus niger
Holly – Ilex aquifolium and related spp. (leaves, berries)
Horse Chestnut – Aesculus hippocastanum and related spp.
Horse Nettle – Solanum carolinense
Hyacinth – Hyacinthus orientalis
Hydrangea – Hydrangea spp.
Iris – Iris spp.
Ivy (Boston, English and some others) – Hedera spp.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit – Arisaema spp.
Jerusalem Cherry – Solanum pseudocapsicum and related spp. (leaves, seeds and flowers)
Jonquil – Narcissus jonquilla
Juniper – Juniperus spp.
Lantana – Lantana camara
Larkspur – Delphinium spp.
Laurel – Kalmia spp.
Lily-of-the-Valley – Convalleriamajalis
Lobelia – Lobelia spp.
Locoweed – Astragalus spp. and Oxytopis spp.
Lupine – Lupinus spp.
Marijuana – Cannabis sativa
Milkweed – Asclepias spp.
Mistletoe – Phoradendron villosum
Mock Orange – Philadelphus spp.
Moonseed – Menispermum canadense
Monkshood – Aconitum spp.
Morning Glory – Ipomoea violacea (seeds)
Mushrooms – Amanita spp. And many others
Narcissus – Narcissus spp.
Oak – Quercus spp.
Oleander – Nerium oleander
Peach – Prunus persica (leaves, pit, bark)
Pear – Pyrus spp. (leaves, seeds, bark)
Peony – Paeonia officinalis
Periwinkle – Vinca minor, Vinca rosea
Peyote – Lophophora williamsii
Philodendron – Philodendron spp. and Monstera spp.
Plum – Prunus spp. (leaves, pit, bark)
Poison Hemlock – Conium maculatum
Poison Ivy – Toxicodendron radicans, includes T. rydbergii
Poison Oak – Toxicodendron querciflium and T. diversilobum
Poison Sumac – Rhux vernix
Poinsettia – Euphorbia pulcherrima
Poppy – Papaver somniferum and related spp.
Pokeweed – Phytolacca Americana
Potato – Solanum tuberosum (sprouts, leaves, berries, green tubers)
Pothos – Eprimemnum aureum
Primrose – Prmula spp.
Privet – Ligustrum vulgare
Ragwort – Senecio jacobea and related spp.
Red Maple – Acer rubrum
Rhododendron – Rhododendron spp.
Rhubarb – Rheum rhabarbarum (leaves)
Rosary Pea – Abrus precatorius
Sage – Salvia officinalis
Shamrock Plant – Medicago lupulina, Trifolium repens, Oxalis acetosella
Skunk Cabbage – Symplocarpus foetidus
Snowdrop – Galanthus nivalis
Sorrel – Rumex spp., Oxalis spp.
Spurges – Euphorbia spp.
Star of Bethlehem – Ornithogalum umbellatum
Sweet Pea – Lathyrus odoratus
Tobacco – Nicotiania spp.
Tomato – Lycopersicon esculentum (stems and leaves)
Tulip – Tulipa spp.
Virginia Creeper – Panthenocissus quinquefolia
Vetches – Vicia spp.
Water Hemlock – Cicuta spp.
Waxberry – Symphoricarpos albus
Wisteria – Wisteria spp.
Yew – Taxus spp.
What Makes Them Toxic?
Oxalates : these plants contain oxalate salts. Contact with the sap can cause burning, swelling and pain. Treatment includes rinsing mouth and washing skin with mild soap and water. Monitor for difficulty swallowing and/or breathing and drooling. Monitor for irritation, swelling or blistering of mouth and oral tissues. Toxic or Potentially Toxic : These plants can be toxic to varying degrees and should be considered with caution. Toxic effects can range from mild irritation to severe organ damage. Call poison control or your veterinarian if you think your pet ingested these plants. Dermatitis : contact with sap can cause skin rash, itching or irritation. Rinse with water and if irritation persists, contact your veterinarian. Unknown : Suspected toxicity but information incomplete. If contact or ingestion occurs contact poison control and your veterinarian.
What to do if you think your animal might have been poisoned?
Seek immediate veterinary advice
Always keep your veterinary contact details near your telephone as this will save time in an emergency. If you know what your animal has eaten, take the plant or any packaging with you to the vet, as this will help him/her decide what the poison is and the type of treatment that your tortoise will need.
Urgent veterinary help is essential when showing symptoms of acute poisoning
The signs of poisoning do vary and can include some or all of the following: respiratory distress, excess salivation, choking, vomiting, tremors, convulsions or paralysis. As death may occur as a result of poisoning, ensure there is no delay in getting your tortoise to a specialist reptile vet for immediate treatment.
Some poisons work quickly, with catastrophic effects, and some work slowly, causing damage as they gradually accumulate in the body. With cumulative poisoning, the symptoms may include the tortoise showing signs of muscular weakness, the tortoise unable to lift itself to walk or unable to walk, and gastrointestinal upset including diarrhea.
Do not attempt to diagnose a case of poisoning yourself: specialist veterinary help should be sought as a matter of urgency.
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