Good yard/wild weeds--Atlanta GA area

jknoche

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Marietta GA
All,
We're raising a juvenile/yearling Eastern Hermann's tortoise, and feeding wild plants from our untreated yard as much as possible. Currently we have a lot of plantains (wide and narrowleaf), hibiscus/rose of sharon , dandelions, wild violets, and cat's ear. He also eats a bit of ajuga/bugleweed that's growing in his enclosure. When those get sparse we are bulking out a bit with produce from our local international market, including a bit of kale, opuntia cactus, dandelion greens, escarole and leaf lettuce. We have some mache green seeds (Lamb's lettuce) that we intend to plant when the weather is a bit more hospitable to cool-weather greens. We also supplement with a bit of Arcadia tortoise food tiles (roughly 1/2 to 1/4 square per day for our sub 300g tort, rehydrated and mixed in with his chopped salad greens)

Am I missing any other wild greens I'm likely to find in this part of the country? I know wild weeds are best for his diet (and definitely the least expensive option) so I'm curious to see what else I can find in the yard that might be safe for him.
 

Tom

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All,
We're raising a juvenile/yearling Eastern Hermann's tortoise, and feeding wild plants from our untreated yard as much as possible. Currently we have a lot of plantains (wide and narrowleaf), hibiscus/rose of sharon , dandelions, wild violets, and cat's ear. He also eats a bit of ajuga/bugleweed that's growing in his enclosure. When those get sparse we are bulking out a bit with produce from our local international market, including a bit of kale, opuntia cactus, dandelion greens, escarole and leaf lettuce. We have some mache green seeds (Lamb's lettuce) that we intend to plant when the weather is a bit more hospitable to cool-weather greens. We also supplement with a bit of Arcadia tortoise food tiles (roughly 1/2 to 1/4 square per day for our sub 300g tort, rehydrated and mixed in with his chopped salad greens)

Am I missing any other wild greens I'm likely to find in this part of the country? I know wild weeds are best for his diet (and definitely the least expensive option) so I'm curious to see what else I can find in the yard that might be safe for him.
Grape vine leaves, mulberry leaves, kudzu....
 

jknoche

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Marietta GA
I've seen really mixed reviews on lamb's quarter/fat hen. Tortoise table has it as a no-no due to oxalates, but other sources seem to be less bothered about it. Anyone have any thoughts?
Grape vine leaves, mulberry leaves, kudzu....
So kudzu is safe? In this part of Georgia that's basically an infinite free-food hack.
I'm looking into planting some mulberry but don't have a supply at my fingertips at this time. Same with grape leaves, though I might be able to find those if I haunt the mediterranean grocers
 

jknoche

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Also, I'm seeing some conflict on oxalate-heavy greens. that same local international market has a lot of mexican greens like epazote, huanzontli (both chenopodium or closely related species), purslane, and so forth. Tortoise Table database seems pretty down on all of those for oxalic acid/oxalate reasons, but I'm seeing other things that suggest that's less of a problem. Anyone care to weigh in?
 

Tom

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I've seen really mixed reviews on lamb's quarter/fat hen. Tortoise table has it as a no-no due to oxalates, but other sources seem to be less bothered about it. Anyone have any thoughts?

So kudzu is safe? In this part of Georgia that's basically an infinite free-food hack.
I'm looking into planting some mulberry but don't have a supply at my fingertips at this time. Same with grape leaves, though I might be able to find those if I haunt the mediterranean grocers
I was told while working in GA that Kudzu was introduced as forage for cattle. I fed it to a friend's sulcatas while I was there.

We get lambs quarter out west here. Some of my tortoises eat it up and seem to like it, while others won't eat it at all. I don't think it is harmful as a small part of a varied diet.
 

jknoche

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Marietta GA
I was told while working in GA that Kudzu was introduced as forage for cattle. I fed it to a friend's sulcatas while I was there.

We get lambs quarter out west here. Some of my tortoises eat it up and seem to like it, while others won't eat it at all. I don't think it is harmful as a small part of a varied diet.
Good to know. I don't see it a lot in the wild here in GA, but a couple close relatives are available at a local market as mentioned above. It was all over the place in the midwest where I grew up.
 

RosemaryDW

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Also, I'm seeing some conflict on oxalate-heavy greens. that same local international market has a lot of mexican greens like epazote, huanzontli (both chenopodium or closely related species), purslane, and so forth. Tortoise Table database seems pretty down on all of those for oxalic acid/oxalate reasons, but I'm seeing other things that suggest that's less of a problem. Anyone care to weigh in?
The warnings on oxalates are out of date. They are not an issue in a varied diet.
 

RosemaryDW

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Welcome!

Georgia and other humid areas produce lots of great weeds, which is a lucky thing for an owner.

When I'm not familiar with an area, I usually start with a "common weeds" search to see what comes up; usually a weed control company gives me a good starting list. If I see something that's not familiar to me I then search this forum to say what experienced owners and breeders say about a plant. There are many Georgia and Florida owners here who have learned what works and what doesn't. I'll also do an image search using the "Info" button that pops up when I take a photo on my iPhone; it does an amazing job identifying plants. Androids have a similar feature although I couldn't tell you where to find it. :eek:

I'm personally of the mindset that the harm of a narrow diet outweighs worries over "dangerous" plants. We don't have much scientific data on how reptile systems function; applying warnings meant for horses and cows is not necessarily helpful. I don't rely on the Tortoise Table at all. I entirely understand, however, how a new owner wants to check that every single plant is safe (I was there myself). Only you can decide what is safe for your tortoise.

You are actually feeding a ton of variety already; there is no rush to learn everything all at once. Again, I've been there as a new and anxious owner; these days there isn't much I won't consider for my scrappy Russian. I've got a few hard no's but not many relative to everything that's available to me. Now I consider mainly which weeds my tortoise will eat, not which are worrisome.

I *would* eventually consider a few other plants from your grocery or what can easily grow in your climate. A few okra now and again are great. She may not eat mustard or collard greens but I would try them. She can have the occasional green bean or snap pea; a small or partial mushroom; a bit of raw yam or sweet potato; a tiny bit of bell pepper. If a neighbor is growing sweet potatoes the leaves are a great food. If they are growing okra, even better; the leaves are full of fiber. Can you plant a cucumber or squash (any kind)? Also great for the leaves and stems. Turnip leaves are full of calcium and practically plant themselves; same goes for radishes.

Weeds definitely have their place but there are plenty of domestic plants that are amazing and don't require shoes full of stickers and burrs. :) Southern California is already pretty dry so today was likely my last weed hunt for the year and I'm not at all worried about keeping her well fed without them.
 

jknoche

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Location (City and/or State)
Marietta GA
Welcome!

Georgia and other humid areas produce lots of great weeds, which is a lucky thing for an owner.

When I'm not familiar with an area, I usually start with a "common weeds" search to see what comes up; usually a weed control company gives me a good starting list. If I see something that's not familiar to me I then search this forum to say what experienced owners and breeders say about a plant. There are many Georgia and Florida owners here who have learned what works and what doesn't. I'll also do an image search using the "Info" button that pops up when I take a photo on my iPhone; it does an amazing job identifying plants. Androids have a similar feature although I couldn't tell you where to find it. :eek:

I'm personally of the mindset that the harm of a narrow diet outweighs worries over "dangerous" plants. We don't have much scientific data on how reptile systems function; applying warnings meant for horses and cows is not necessarily helpful. I don't rely on the Tortoise Table at all. I entirely understand, however, how a new owner wants to check that every single plant is safe (I was there myself). Only you can decide what is safe for your tortoise.

You are actually feeding a ton of variety already; there is no rush to learn everything all at once. Again, I've been there as a new and anxious owner; these days there isn't much I won't consider for my scrappy Russian. I've got a few hard no's but not many relative to everything that's available to me. Now I consider mainly which weeds my tortoise will eat, not which are worrisome.

I *would* eventually consider a few other plants from your grocery or what can easily grow in your climate. A few okra now and again are great. She may not eat mustard or collard greens but I would try them. She can have the occasional green bean or snap pea; a small or partial mushroom; a bit of raw yam or sweet potato; a tiny bit of bell pepper. If a neighbor is growing sweet potatoes the leaves are a great food. If they are growing okra, even better; the leaves are full of fiber. Can you plant a cucumber or squash (any kind)? Also great for the leaves and stems. Turnip leaves are full of calcium and practically plant themselves; same goes for radishes.

Weeds definitely have their place but there are plenty of domestic plants that are amazing and don't require shoes full of stickers and burrs. :) Southern California is already pretty dry so today was likely my last weed hunt for the year and I'm not at all worried about keeping her well fed without them.
Unfortunately my townhouse lot isn't quite big enough to support much gardening (especially with giving Melville a 10x10 outdoor pen) . My nearby Korean-owned international market has been a huge help as they stock things like fresh nopales and dandelion greens as well as various lettuces, leafy greens and such. We have a pretty "wild" yard (we make no effort to spray to get a "golf course' sort of lawn, so plenty of cats ear, wild violets, plantains etc) and I think we get deadnettles later in the season. We also have a hibiscus shrub that he seems to like the leaves from.
I'm looking into adding mulberry and lilac bushes once we get some tree work done, though the lilacs will have to be at the far end of the yard and downwind (wife is allergic)
 

RosemaryDW

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Unfortunately my townhouse lot isn't quite big enough to support much gardening (especially with giving Melville a 10x10 outdoor pen) . My nearby Korean-owned international market has been a huge help as they stock things like fresh nopales and dandelion greens as well as various lettuces, leafy greens and such. I'm looking into adding mulberry and lilac bushes once we get some tree work done, though the lilacs will have to be at the far end of the yard and downwind (wife is allergic)
I hear you on the gardening space. I'd probably skip lilac until I I confirmed my tortoise would eat it.

You have a Korean market! Great, locally those are the places (outside my farmers market) I think provide the most options.

You might want to take a look at a couple of posts I made after visiting our Korean grocery. Some of the foods I mentioned: sweet pea leaves, turnip and squash leaves are often available. Take a look for Ong Choy, which is a really solid food.


And this within our larger "chef's thread," which reflects people from all kinds of places figuring out what they can find locally: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/the-tortoise-chef.153728/page-4#post-1518453.

I don't think I mention methi "fenugreek" in either of those but it's one to try if they somehow keep it in stock. It's a legume so not an everyday food.

Try not to focus on the prices! I live in an extremely high cost of living area.
 

jknoche

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Marietta GA
I hear you on the gardening space. I'd probably skip lilac until I I confirmed my tortoise would eat it.

You have a Korean market! Great, locally those are the places (outside my farmers market) I think provide the most options.

You might want to take a look at a couple of posts I made after visiting our Korean grocery. Some of the foods I mentioned: sweet pea leaves, turnip and squash leaves are often available. Take a look for Ong Choy, which is a really solid food.


And this within our larger "chef's thread," which reflects people from all kinds of places figuring out what they can find locally: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/the-tortoise-chef.153728/page-4#post-1518453.

I don't think I mention methi "fenugreek" in either of those but it's one to try if they somehow keep it in stock. It's a legume so not an everyday food.

Try not to focus on the prices! I live in an extremely high cost of living area.
 

jknoche

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Marietta GA
It's funny you mention methi leaves. I have a bag of dried fenugreek leaf on my spice rack from Indian recipes I make occasionally. I might add a sprinkle to Melville's salad to see what he thinks.

Based on other comments about a little protein is good, we also have white clover in the yard, and I've seen red clover growing wild if I take the time to forage it.

Our closest Korean market is Nam Dae Mun but H Mart is in the area as well if I commute a bit. I will need to check them out. The Buford highway area near Atlanta has a VERY vibrant SE Asian community so there's lots to find.
 

RosemaryDW

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Oh, if you've got SE Asia you will do well.

 

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