Mulberry weed

Tanuki

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Hello! Does anybody know if mulberry weed, also known as crabweed, Latin name is Fatoua Villosa ( this plant is different from mulberry tree ) is safe to feed to a Hermann’s tortoise? We have a ton of this weed all over the place in the state of Georgia. I can’t find it on the tortoise table.
 

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Michael Bird

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I'm not finding anything regarding tortoises, but I did find some references that say it is not edible for humans and cats/dogs and leaf secretions can cause skin irritation.
 

RosemaryDW

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Welcome!

The Tortoise Table is largely set up to support owners in the U.K., it isn't always a useful resource in North America.

If you track this plant down, it's classified under the fig plant family. Opinions on fig leaves vary, I see here that some red foot owners feed them. Red foot seemingly eat everything though, doesn't mean it's suitable for your tortoise.

Given fig sap can be an irritant I'd skip this one. Your tortoise probably wouldn't like it anyway.
 

Tanuki

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Welcome!

The Tortoise Table is largely set up to support owners in the U.K., it isn't always a useful resource in North America.

If you track this plant down, it's classified under the fig plant family. Opinions on fig leaves vary, I see here that some red foot owners feed them. Red foot seemingly eat everything though, doesn't mean it's suitable for your tortoise.

Given fig sap can be an irritant I'd skip this one. Your tortoise probably wouldn't like it anyway.
Thanks, Rosemary! Our tortoise actually found this weed in our backyard and he tried it and really liked it, but I had to stop him because I wasn’t sure about the safety. I wish there was something like the tortoise table specifically for North America. So many weeds that grow here that I am not able to find information on.
 

RosemaryDW

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Thanks, Rosemary! Our tortoise actually found this weed in our backyard and he tried it and really liked it, but I had to stop him because I wasn’t sure about the safety. I wish there was something like the tortoise table specifically for North America. So many weeds that grow here that I am not able to find information on.
Oh really. Hmm.

So here is the thing. The Tortoise Table science can be sloppy in my opinion so I don't rely on it. There are warnings for some plants on it—like buttercups—that are flat out wrong for testudo type tortoises like your Hermann. If I'm searching for a plant I actually just search on this forum for the name; often others have had the same question (although I didn't find many for mulberry weed though). I look for feedback from those that have multiple (healthy!) tortoises or owners with long term experience. If I don't find it here I do some research on Wikipedia on the plant family/tribe/genus itself but I have some experience there. That's what I did for this plant.

This makes me a more casual feeder than some. I have a wild caught Russian and while she is a voracious eater at this point in her life I've never had her go after anything that I felt was "bad" for her. On occasion there are foods I know are safe she simply doesn't care for. If your tortoise has been eating this and you've not noticed any eye or mouth irritation I'd say it's fine to feed; it's the only reason I suggested against it.

Some owners will tell you a tortoise isn't smart enough to know what's bad for them so you should never take a risk. Only you can decide what's right for your tortoise so if you are at all uncomfortable then skip it; tons of weeds in Georgia to choose from I'm pretty sure.

I would give different advice for an African tortoise, like a sulcata; they are the few tortoises I've seen here that have come to documented harm from feeding the wrong thing. Usually bulb plants.
 

Tanuki

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Oh really. Hmm.

So here is the thing. The Tortoise Table science can be sloppy in my opinion so I don't rely on it. There are warnings for some plants on it—like buttercups—that are flat out wrong for testudo type tortoises like your Hermann. If I'm searching for a plant I actually just search on this forum for the name; often others have had the same question (although I didn't find many for mulberry weed though). I look for feedback from those that have multiple (healthy!) tortoises or owners with long term experience. If I don't find it here I do some research on Wikipedia on the plant family/tribe/genus itself but I have some experience there. That's what I did for this plant.

This makes me a more casual feeder than some. I have a wild caught Russian and while she is a voracious eater at this point in her life I've never had her go after anything that I felt was "bad" for her. On occasion there are foods I know are safe she simply doesn't care for. If your tortoise has been eating this and you've not noticed any eye or mouth irritation I'd say it's fine to feed; it's the only reason I suggested against it.

Some owners will tell you a tortoise isn't smart enough to know what's bad for them so you should never take a risk. Only you can decide what's right for your tortoise so if you are at all uncomfortable then skip it; tons of weeds in Georgia to choose from I'm pretty sure.

I would give different advice for an African tortoise, like a sulcata; they are the few tortoises I've seen here that have come to documented harm from feeding the wrong thing. Usually bulb plants.
Thanks, Rosemary. You made me feel better about it. I will try searching for plants I can’t find on tortoise table here on this forum. I am totally new to all this. It hasn’t even been a month since we adopted our Hermann. How old is your Russian tortoise? Does she live outside? Do you allow her to brumate?
 

RosemaryDW

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Thanks, Rosemary. You made me feel better about it. I will try searching for plants I can’t find on tortoise table here on this forum. I am totally new to all this. It hasn’t even been a month since we adopted our Hermann. How old is your Russian tortoise? Does she live outside? Do you allow her to brumate?
Since she was wild caught we don't know her age; at her first vet visit he shrugged and said "Could be ten years old, could be twenty." 🤷‍♂️ We found her on the street so she'd had another owner previously and she's been with since the fall of 2015.

She went into brumation in our yard a few days later, while we were looking for her owner and she's been with us since.

We are lucky to live in a mild climate with a small yard that was already very secure and planted with scrubby native California plants, so not entirely unlike where she grew up. We would have taken her to a rescue if we didn't have a good space for her, as she wasn't a planned pet.

She does brumate--she will regardless of what we try--so she brumates in her own fridge now. She winds herself down in the fall and after so many years we can pin down the exact day she's ready to dig down and that's when she goes in. I bring her out when we the night temps stabilize in the high fifties. In the spring and fall she has a heated night box and in the summer a burrow she started and my husband enlarged and stabilized. (If she didn't have the night box I'd bring her out of brumation later.)

While she does being us a great deal of enjoyment she's living pretty close to wild these days. I spend a lot of time ensuring she has a broad diet but the fact is she could (and often does) forage entirely in the yard. Russians are very destructive relative to their size so every year we hold our breath and hope she doesn't have a growth leap.
 

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