Weed identification?

Yvonne G

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Oh man . . . that's not a weed (unless it pops up in a place you don't want it to). That's edible nasturtium. A pretty nice plant and pleasant to look at when it blooms.
 

yaycolin

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Oh man . . . that's not a weed (unless it pops up in a place you don't want it to). That's edible nasturtium. A pretty nice plant and pleasant to look at when it blooms.
Thank you. This just further proves my lack of plant knowledge.. lol I thought it was a weed, since I am fairly certain this plant was not intentionally planted in this location. There are also smaller versions starting in the grass section right below this planter, so it is spreading.
 

TisMary

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Hi @yaycolin! Volunteer Nasturtiums, eh? It happens. Seeds probably got pooped out by some critter along the way! ?

Hard to tell how much sun these plants are getting where you found them. They like full sun and generally bloom all summer into the fall. You might try replanting them in a sunny location. As far as your tort eating them, it's OK as part of a varied diet. Nasturtiums contain oxalic acid which is not good in huge amounts as it binds to calcium and prevents it from getting absorbed. Read more about it here: Harmful Properties

Nasturtium flowers are gorgeous and have an interesting feature called a "spur" where they hide their nectar. Turns out nectar is what flowers use to entice pollinators (bees, hummingbirds, etc.) . The pollinators come in, drink the nectar and - probably unknowingly!- pollinate the flower at the same time. Sneaky flowers! Anyway, you can see the spur in the picture on the right - it trails out behind the flower itself.

1629744495512.png
picture and more details courtesy of Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension
 

yaycolin

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Hi @yaycolin! Volunteer Nasturtiums, eh? It happens. Seeds probably got pooped out by some critter along the way! ?

Hard to tell how much sun these plants are getting where you found them. They like full sun and generally bloom all summer into the fall. You might try replanting them in a sunny location. As far as your tort eating them, it's OK as part of a varied diet. Nasturtiums contain oxalic acid which is not good in huge amounts as it binds to calcium and prevents it from getting absorbed. Read more about it here: Harmful Properties

Nasturtium flowers are gorgeous and have an interesting feature called a "spur" where they hide their nectar. Turns out nectar is what flowers use to entice pollinators (bees, hummingbirds, etc.) . The pollinators come in, drink the nectar and - probably unknowingly!- pollinate the flower at the same time. Sneaky flowers! Anyway, you can see the spur in the picture on the right - it trails out behind the flower itself.

View attachment 331519
picture and more details courtesy of Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension
Thanks for the information! I am going to avoid these all together.
 

RosemaryDW

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Thanks for the information! I am going to avoid these all together.
Nasturiums naturalize very easily; it’s not uncommon to see them blooming near a creek in a shady area or just a damp place in the shade near me. There is no reason to avoid them whatsoever. That information on oxalic acid is out of date and has not ever been proven by solid research. They are perfectly fine as part of a varied diet. My Russian is off and on as to whether she’ll eat them though.

Even better those pretty flowers are peppery and are often used to fancy up gourmet salad mixes or just as a garnish; you might want to give them a shot yourself! But check for ants first. :eek:
 

TisMary

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Nasturiums naturalize very easily; it’s not uncommon to see them blooming near a creek in a shady area or just a damp place in the shade near me. There is no reason to avoid them whatsoever. That information on oxalic acid is out of date and has not ever been proven by solid research. They are perfectly fine as part of a varied diet. My Russian is off and on as to whether she’ll eat them though.

Even better those pretty flowers are peppery and are often used to fancy up gourmet salad mixes or just as a garnish; you might want to give them a shot yourself! But check for ants first. :eek:
Hi @RosemaryDW. I can agree to disagree with you on TTT Plant Database. I do always look to see why they don't recommend a specific plant; sometimes I think they're being too conservative and will put that plant on my OK list with a note. I will say though that I haven't found any other plant database for tortoise folks that even comes close to this one (warts and all) - if you know of one, I'm all ears!

I am interested in your current research on nasturtium toxicity. I find nothing that says there is no toxicity (again, I'm all ears). This article from Botanical Online Nasturtium Toxicity doesn't list oxalic acid specifically, but does list several other components that give me pause. There are so many plants that aren't controversial, I'm happy to just avoid the ones on which there is question.

Friends? ?
 

RosemaryDW

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Hi @RosemaryDW. I can agree to disagree with you on TTT Plant Database. I do always look to see why they don't recommend a specific plant; sometimes I think they're being too conservative and will put that plant on my OK list with a note. I will say though that I haven't found any other plant database for tortoise folks that even comes close to this one (warts and all) - if you know of one, I'm all ears!

I am interested in your current research on nasturtium toxicity. I find nothing that says there is no toxicity (again, I'm all ears). This article from Botanical Online Nasturtium Toxicity doesn't list oxalic acid specifically, but does list several other components that give me pause. There are so many plants that aren't controversial, I'm happy to just avoid the ones on which there is question.

Friends? ?
This is going to be long I’m afraid but these are good issues to consider.

There are no good general plant databases in my opinion. There is little to no research done on tortoises and how they process food so I’m unlikely to pay much attention to mammal studies, period. If someone here has been successfully feeding multiple animals a food for long periods of time I’m going to go off that until such time as we have research. It’s anecdotal but it’s the best we have at this time. It helps that I’ve been reading about these users for a long time and respect their experience. Even they don’t always agree; when that happens I go with the one who’s actively been feeding it the longest or feeding it to a specific tortoise. When we read the forums we find plenty of tragedy related to housing but next to nothing on harm from diet. Instead we find owners sticking entirely to grocery store spring mix with perhaps one or two weeds because they see too many posts about food safety from people who use the TT as a bible and quote it verbatim. That is really frustrating to me. There are some plants generally agreed upon here as risky but truly not many: that’s why you’ll broadly see the alternate advice from long-term owners and breeders “Good as part of a varied diet.”

The Tortoise Table folks are really knowledgeable about what their concerns are if you ask a specific plant question in their forum; it’s just that they are using questionable science. You’ll read about a plant in one family as perfectly safe, contrasted to a very close relative with no warnings at all. It warns about oxalic acid all the time for which there is no current research proving it’s dangerous. There are many plants for which they say they don’t really know and as a result shouldn’t be fed. Whereas you know yourself that if you do a little searching you’ll find some evidence that makes you feel more comfortable about whether it is or isn’t safe. If you read my history you’ll easily find my pet peeve from them which is listing buttercups as a NEVER feed because they are a bulb plant, even though they form a large part of the diet of Russians in the wild and U.K. owners have been feeding them to their different types of testudo for decades. Legumes are constantly listed as problematic yet somehow some are fine? The pods of legumes are typically described as never safe due to protein content but tortoises need some plant protein; protein fears can be linked back to periods of time when users were (horribly) advised to feed animal protein to tortoises that shouldn’t have it. It’s just all over the place.

I’ll look at the TT to see their feedback and plant photos or more commonly, grab a Latin name; do a search here; check the plant family if I can’t find anything here; then work backward from the plant family to consider whether it is appropriate to feed. In this instance nasturtium is in the family order brassicales which contains any number of safe plants and no concievably unsafe ones growing in the western hemisphere at a cursory glance. Does it contain some glycosides? Yup, all the brassicas do. Yet we recommend brassicas all the time as part of a varied diet and we’ve done so for years and years. Plenty of owners have fed nasturtiums for years with no bad outcomes. That’s good enough for me. Would that assessment pass muster in a journal article submitted for publication? Definitely not but that’s not what most owners are looking for or need.

There are often good plant lists available for specific tortoise species: American gopher and desert tortoises, for example, are easy for me to find because they are commonly kept or at least observed living near by humans. We’ve got a portion of a research paper on native diet for Russians—observed in their native habitat—on our very own site that I sometimes feel I am the only one who has read. It’s short but terribly useful. On the other hand, older—or even current!—lists for testudo are horrible; if I find one more English list for testudo that lists apples I may lose my mind.

I have to think about the type of tortoise as well because I’m inexperienced with so many kinds; I always need to review what experienced owners say about them. I’m pretty comfortable with testudo, given their similarities in habitat and known native diet. Plus we have tons of owners here because they are among the most kept breeds. Others, not so much.

Sulcatas seem like dogs to me at this point in that they’ll eat anything and are one of the two types of tortoises I’ve read about having an food injury here, both from eating large quanties of bulb plants. The sulcata just got a bad rash; the other tortoises were aldabras—also African tortoises—died. Since I don’t own an African tortoise; don’t know much about of their native diet; and have seen them come to harm, I don’t give much advice unless it’s a food I’ve read about from an owner. I would never give advice about an aldabras other than to stay away from bulb plants, I just won’t go there.

Redfoot tortoises can seemingly eat garbage; we’ve got owners here who feed incredible variety to prove it. I don’t speak to much about their diet but know we’ve got several great owners in the redfoot forum who can give good advice and can easily point new owners there.

Star tortoise habitat is also unknown to me but I’ve seen enough about what they can eat to give a little advice. I know enough about safe plants from India and Southeast Asia (a fluke due to where I live) that I can list safe plants from there and relieve owners who can’t find the Western hemisphere plants we feed here with no awareness anything else exists or is safe.

Again, none of this is scientific data but I’ve been reading here for quite a while and have the good fortune to have learned a bit of plant identification when I was young. My Google-fu is also pretty strong. I have a hobby of visiting ethnic grocery stores to learn about new plants or find ones described here that I’d never find at a “regular” grocery store. All of these things help me feel confident in my advice. Of course that wasn’t the case when I was a new owner. And I’m still absolutely wrong sometimes. No one ever has to feed anything they aren’t comfortable with—you’re right that there are plenty of foods we know to be benign. But they aren’t available to everyone, whereas plenty of locally available foods can be considered safe with a little basic review. Variety is always going to be my approach. Again, nothing wrong with being conservative but I don’t find it to be the best approach for anyone but brand new owners. I stuck to the most commonly listed plants here for about a year as a new owner myself before branching out.

This is an extremely long way of saying “Meh” to common scientific info applied to tortoises. Some folks here are reliant upon it and thoughtful with it, as you are. That’s fine, we can agree to disagree. Sometimes the natural outcome of that will be varying feedback to users, a common thing around here. That’s okay as well. If we all knew and agreed upon everything we wouldn’t have much need of a forum. :)
 

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