Safe Forage & Landscape Plants for Desert Tortoises

Landscaping a tortoise enclosure can be a lot of fun.  But let’s face it. It can also be daunting.

White Stemmed Stickleaf (Mentzelia albicaulis)

Providing a safe and happy home for your tortoise is important!  Imagine living in an environment you will be in all day, every day.  Sound boring? It doesn’t have to be.  The following lists are of native plants that can work wonderfully when providing food,

hiding places, and variety in a tortoise enclosure.  Always remember to look at things from a tortoise’s point of view-which is only a few inches off of the ground.

Make enclosures as large as possible.  An adult tortoise may travel up to 220 yards in a single day-the length of two football fields!

 

Desert Tortoise eating Mirabilis laevis, (Desert Wishbone) a native perennial plant.

If purchasing plants, be absolutely certain that they have not been treated with pesticides at any time.  Tortoises are very sensitive to chemical exposures, often with devastating consequences.  The following tables are searchable.  You may also extend the tables to see all items that are listed on it.

There are three tables on this page. Scroll down to see all information provided.

Edible Native Plants for Tortoises

Common and Botanical NameEdible Part(s)
Apache plume
Fallugia paradoxa
Flowers
Birdsfoot
Acmispon strigosus
Entire Plant
Blazing Star
Mentzelia albicaulis/veatchiana
Entire Plant
Blue grama grass
Bouteloua gracilis
Entire Plant
Chuparosa
Justicia californica
Flowers
Cottontop grass
Digitaria californica
Entire Plant
Curly mesquite grass
Hilaria belangeri
Entire Plant
Desert chicory
Rafinequia nemexicana
Entire Plant
Desert dandelion Malacothrix spp
Entire Plant
Desert honeysuckle
Anisacanthus thurberi
Flowers and leaves
Desert plantain Plantago ovata Entire Plant
Desert rock pea
Lotus rigidus
Entire Plant
Desert tidy tips
Layia glandulosa
Entire Plant
Desert Willow Chilopsis linearisFlowers
Desert wishbone,
Mirabilis laevis
Entire Plant
Evening primrose Oenothera sppEntire Plant
Fairy duster
Calliandra eriophylla
Flowers
Fluffgrass
Dasyochloa pulchella
Entire Plant
Galleta grass Pleuraphis spp Entire Plant
Globemallow Sphaeralcea ambiguaEntire Plant
Indian mallow Abutilon palmeriEntire Plant
Indian ricegrass
Stipa hymenoides
Entire Plant
Lupine
Lupinus spp
Entire Plant
Milkvetch
Astragalus spp
Entire Plant
Needle grama Bouteloua aristodoides Entire Plant
Owl’s clover
Castilleja exserta
Entire Plant
Parry's rock pink Stephanomeria parryiEntire Plant
Pincushion
Chaenactis spp
Entire Plant
Rattlesnake Weed Euphorbia albomarginata Entire Plant
Rock hibiscus
Hibiscus denudatus
Entire Plant
Sand dropseed Sporobolus cryptandrus Entire Plant
Sideoats grama Bouteloua curtipendula Entire Plant
Spiderlings
Boerhavia spp
Entire Plant
Windmills
Allionia incarnata
Entire Plant
Woolly plantain Plantago patagonica Entire Plant

Edible Weeds For Tortoises

Common and Botanical Name 
Broadleaf Plantain
Plantago major
Chicory
Cichorium intybus
Common Chickweed
Stellaria media
Common Mallow
Malva neglecta
Dandelion
Taraxum officinale
Greater Plantain
Plantago media
Heartsease
Viola tricolor
Hoary Plantain
Plantago media
Hoary Plantain
Plantago media
Kidney Weed
Dichondra repens
Lamb's Lettuce
Valerianella locusta
Mauritian Mallow
Malva s. mauritanica
Mouse Ear Chickweed
Cerastium fontanum
Ribgrass Plantian
Plantago lancealata
Shepherd's Purse
Capsella bursa-pastoris
Sowthistles
Sonchus spp
Stonecrops
Sedum reflexum

 

Safe Landscape Shrubs for Tortoise Areas

Common and Botanical NameAlso a Food Source?
Desert senna
Senna covesii
Fairy duster
Calliandra eriophylla
Flowers
Desert buckwheat
Eriogonum fasciculatum
Desert ironwood tree
Olneya tesota
Flowers
Palo verde tree
Parkinsonia spp.
Flowers
Honey mesquite tree
Prosopis glandulosa
Flowers
Screwbean mesquite tree
Prosopsis pubescens
Flowers
Joshua tree
Yucca brevifolia
Mojave yucca
Yucca schidigera
Chuparosa
Justicia californica
Flowers
Creosote bush
Larrea tridentata
Desert honeysuckle
Anisacanthus thurberi
Flowers
Ocotillo
Fouquieria splendens
Brittlebush
Encelia farinosa
Apache plume
Fallugia paradoxa
Flowers
Bladderpod
Peritoma arborea
Winterfat
Krascheninnikovia lanata
Desert almond
Prunus fasciculata
Four wing saltbush
Atriplex canescens
Cattle Spinach
Atriplex polycarpa
Desert senna
Senna covesii