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29 Different Vegetables Sulcata Tortoises Eat

Sulcata tortoises, also called African Spurred Tortoises, are quite popular as pets and are considered to be the largest tortoises endemic to Africa. While they can grow to massive sizes, they are relatively easy to care for and keep. Their needs are pretty basic — a large enclosure, warm temperatures, and healthy food.

They are herbivores, dining exclusively on plant matter including vegetables. So what vegetables can Sulcata tortoises eat?

If we had to pick just one type, we’d have to say that Leafy greens are the best vegetables to feed Sulcata tortoises. That’s not to say that this is ALL that they can eat, which brings us to our subject for today.

Stay with us and we’ll tell you about vegetables you can offer Sulcatas, what you should avoid, and also succulents that they enjoy that might consider planting in their enclosures as a form of edible decor.

What vegetables can Sulcata tortoises eat? Let’s take a look!

A Wild Sulcata tortoise enjoying some tasty leaves
A Wild Sulcata tortoise enjoying some tasty leaves

Vegetables to offer

The vegetables you need to offer the Sulcata must be high in fiber and low in protein. Feeding them foods high in protein causes the tortoise to grow faster than it needs to and can lead to nutritional issues such as metabolic bone disease, which can weaken and misshape the skeleton and shell of your turtle.

Even if the diet is corrected and the disease is cured, the physical effects of metabolic bone disease cannot be reversed, and these permanent changes can generally lead to a lower quality of life.

Let’s take a look at some healthy options that you can feed a Sulcata tortoise so that you can get started creating a menu of your own for these tortoises!

If you are taking care of a Sulcata tortoise of your own, check out our Sulcata tortoise complete care guide when you’re done here – the link will open in a new window so it will be ready and waiting!

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are generally high in fiber and low in protein, and also high in vitamins and useful calcium. These should be the most common veggies that you offer to Sulcata tortoises and below we’ve compiled some of the best to mix and match!

1. Collard Greens

Collard greens in a pot
Collard greens in a pot

Collard greens refer to particular cultivars of Brassica oleracea. Other cultivars of Brassica oleracea include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, savoy cabbage, broccoli, and many more. Collard greens are an excellent option for their nutritional profile.

They are high in fiber and also rich in vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and Calcium, and also provide vitamin K, iron, and magnesium. ust be sure to offer them only sparingly, as they are also high in oxalates and if your turtle eats them too often, they can lead to health issues such as kidney stones.

2. Broccoli

Broccoli plant
Broccoli plant

Similar to collard greens, broccoli is a cultivar of  Brassica oleracea. and its biological name is Brassica oleracea var. Italica. High in fiber, broccoli is also rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin B-1 to B-6. It isn’t as nutritious as collard greens, but it does provide several important minerals and nutrients.

Like collard greens, broccoli should be offered sparingly, as it contains goitrogens which can affect your tortoise’s iodine intake if eaten in large amounts.

3. Carrots

Carrots are a popular food for tortoises, but a bit on the sugary side
Carrots are a popular food for tortoises, but a bit on the sugary side

Carrots are bright orange root vegetables and one of the most common you’ll find at your local store. Tortoises love them, but they should be offered in moderation due to their high sugar content.

If you decide to offer your tortoise carrots, you should also make sure to cut the carrot up into small pieces so the turtle can easily eat them.

Their biological name is Daucus carota sativus and carrots are part of the Family Apiaceae. As far as vitamins go, their chief benefit is that they are high in Vitamin A (beta-carotene).

4. Dandelion Greens & Flowers

Bowl of Dandelion Greens
Bowl of Dandelion Greens

Sulcatas can eat the flowers, leaves, and stems of the dandelion plant, which includes species of the genus Taraxacum. Dandelions are high in antioxidants and adding them to your tortoise’s diet is a great way to create a nice variety in their everyday menu. Tortoises LOVE the flowers, too, so don’t leave those out!

Dandelions are quite nutritious, as they are high in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins K, D, B, C, and A.

5. Endive

Cut up Endives on a plate
Cut up Endives on a plate

This is another amazing leafy green to consider. Endive includes plants of the genus Cichorium and examples include endive chicory (Cichorium intybus), wild endive (Cichorium pumilum), and endive (Cichorium endivia).

Endive is high in vitamin K and Manganese and also provides include Folate (B9), Potassium, and Vitamin A.

6. Hibiscus

Pink hibiscus flower
Pink hibiscus flower

Hibiscus includes several annual and perennial plants and tortoises and turtles love eating the leaves and flowers. One of the more popular hibiscus that Sulcatas enjoy is the leathery-leaved China Rose (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis).

This hibiscus is also known as shoeblack plant, rose mallow, Hawaiian hibiscus, and Chinese hibiscus.

Another popular hibiscus species that tortoises enjoy are rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) and these may be the more popular option, as the leaves of this hibiscus aren’t leathery and easier to eat and digest.

7. Kale

Bushel of Kale
Bushel of Kale

Kale is another cultivar of Brassica oleracea, which makes it a type of cabbage. Tortoises enjoy eating kale, although this is another option that should be offered in moderation.

The leaves of kale are generally green or purple, so they also make good ornamental plants, and turtles and tortoises will even happily eat the flowers. Kale is particularly high in vitamins K and C, and rich in Manganese and Folate (B9).

The reason that Kale should be offered sparingly is that it contains oxalic acid. Ingested in large amounts, this can negatively impact the tortoise’s ability to absorb calcium, but it’s fine in small amounts to add a little variety to their diets.

8. Okra

Sulcatas like okra but it should be fed sparingly due to it's high oxalate content
Sulcatas like okra but it should be fed sparingly due to it’s high oxalate content

Okra is also known as lady’s fingers, ochro, or okro, and while you’ve certainly got it at the grocery store, this plant is endemic to West Africa. Okra is high in vitamins K and C, and contains moderate amounts of magnesium, folate, and thiamin. It also has a lot of fiber, so it’s got a good nutritional profile.

The biological name of okra is Abelmoschus esculentus, from the family Malvaceae, and while it’s vitamin-packed it should also be one of those foods you only feed in small amounts due to a high amount of oxalates.

9. Pumpkin/Winter Squash

Butternut squash cut in half on a wooden cutting board
Butternut squash cut in half on a wooden cutting board

Pumpkin and winter squash are high in vitamins C and vitamin A, as well as being very high in fiber. The protein value is also negligible, so you won’t need to worry about overdoing their protein.

Pumpkins and winter squash are part of the genus Cucurbita and some well-known types include West Indian pumpkin, Dickinson pumpkin, and Connecticut field pumpkin.

10. Rose

Rose petals in a dish and on a wooden table
Rose petals in a dish and on a wooden table

Rose petals are edible and can be offered to Sulcatas! These flowers are high in fiber and contain vitamin C and the rose hips are high in vitamin C, as well. Just be careful of the roses that you offer your tortoise. Store-bought bouquets are usually treated with insecticides, so they could make your turtle very ill!

Rose includes species of the genus Rosa.

11. Spinach

Bowl of spinach leaves
Bowl of spinach leaves

Spinach is high in calcium and fiber, but regardless of this, it should only be offered in small amounts. That’s because spinach is high in oxalates which can lead to kidney stones and interfere with the absorption of calcium.

Due to this, some owners prefer not to offer spinach at all, but a small amount once a week should be perfectly fine if you are careful not to group oxalate-rich vegetables together.

Spinach belongs to the family Amaranthaceae. The biological name of this plant is Spinacia oleracea.

12. Bell Pepper/Sweet Pepper

Chopped up bell peppers
Chopped up bell peppers

These are known as green pepper, capsicum, and bell pepper, and also include several plants of the species Capsicum annuum.

It is important to note – the stem, leaves, and roots of capsicum/bell pepper are HIGHLY toxic to tortoises, so do not include these parts when you’re feeding your Sulcata bell peppers. Bell peppers make a good occasional treat, at Sulcatas love them, but they should be offered only in small amounts.

13. Cauliflower

Tortoises love cauliflower but they can only have a little - it's toxic in large amounts!
Tortoises love cauliflower but they can only have a little – it’s toxic in large amounts!

Cauliflower is high in oxalates and it also contains goitrogens, which can cause kidney and liver damage in tortoises. You can still offer it and tortoises LOVE it, but you need to keep the amounts small so that they will not be toxic to your tortoise.

Cauliflower is a cultivar of wild cabbage – Brassica oleracea.

Succulent Plants

Succulents come in many shapes and sizes, but not all are safe for your Sulcata tortoise!
Succulents come in many shapes and sizes, but not all are safe for your Sulcata tortoise!

In the wild, Sulcata tortoises love to eat succulent plants and cacti, and as an added bonus, these yummy plants also provide most of their hydration needs in the wild. That said, you still need to be careful when offering succulents to the turtle, as not all cacti and succulents are safe.

Even with the safe ones, some can only be offered sparingly, so let’s look at the best cacti and succulents to offer your Sulcata. After that, we’ll cover the ones that should not be on the menu so that you can avoid them.

One thing we should also mention is that Succulents have a laxative effect, so they should only be offered in moderation.

Also, plants you buy may be treated with fertilizer and insecticides that can be harmful to the turtle, so your best bet is to re-pot plants and only offer new leaf growth as these won’t contain any insecticides or toxic fertilizers.

14. Aloe

Aloe plant growing next to house
Aloe plant growing next to house

This well-known plant can be offered to turtles and tortoises. While they enjoy snacking on aloe, it is best to offer the plant in moderation. As with all succulents, offering too much can be bad for the turtle.

Aloe is a common house plant and the most popular Aloe species is Aloe vera, also known as Aloe vulgaris and Aloe barbadensis. The Aloe genus also includes over 650 plants, but aloe vera is usually going to be the one that it the easiest to find.

Aloe plants may have serrated margins and if they do, it is best to remove these teeth before offering the plant to the tortoise so that they don’t injure themselves eating the plant.

15. Aeonium

Aeonium Cuclops Flower
Aeonium Cuclops Flower
  • Family: Crassulaceae
  • Biological Name: Aeonium spp.

Aeoniums may be offered only in moderation, as they can be high in calcium oxalates and thus unsafe in large quantities. Offer this succulent as a small part of a varied diet and it should be fine.

These plants are generally planted because of their attractive rosette arrangement of waxy leaves, which come in several colors.

Some commonly planted aeonium species and cultivars include A. arboreum, A. arboreum ‘Albovariegatum’, A. arboreum ‘Atropurpureum’, A. arboreum ‘Luteovariegatum’, A. arboreum ‘Schwartzkopf’ or ‘Zwartkop’, A. decorum, A. decorum ‘Sunburst’, A. tabuliforme, and A. undulatum.

16. Broadleaf Stonecrop

Broadleaf Stonecrop
Broadleaf Stonecrop

This succulent plant belongs to the Crassulaceae Family and its biological name is Sedum spathulifolium. They are safe for your tortoise to eat but as with other succulents, keep the amounts small. You can offer other types of sedum EXCEPT for sedum acre — that one is toxic!

17. Sedum Spurium

Sedum spurium is okay to feed to tortoises in small amounts
Sulcata tortoises enjoy sedum spurium, but be sure to moderate the amounts!

This type of sedum is commonly known as tricolor stonecrop, two-row stonecrop, or the dragon’s blood sedum. The biological name is Sedum spurium or Phedimus spurius and it is part of the Crassulaceae family.

Tortoises like eating them and you can give them some from time to time, but only in small amounts.

18. Sedum Reflexum

Sedum Reflexum
Sedum Reflexum

This plant is also known as trip-madam, prick-madam, stone orpine, blue stonecrop, Kenny’s stonecrop, and reflexed stonecrop. The biological name of this plant is Sedum reflexum or Petrosedum rupestre and it is part of the Crassulaceae family.

This plant is a common ornamental plant and there are several cultivars available, so it can add a little color as well as taste to your tortoise’s diet, but you should only offer this plant in moderation.

19. White Stonecrop (Sedum Album)

White Stonecrop Flowers
White Stonecrop Flowers

This is another sedum plant that you can offer to the tortoise. It is part of the Crassulaceae family and its biological name is S. album. It gets its name from the pretty white flowers it produces.

This plant is edible and tortoises like it, but you should avoid planting it in the tortoise enclosure as overeating this plant can lead to stomach upset. Offered in moderation as part of a varied diet, however, it should be fine.

This plant is similar in appearance to sedum acre, with the chief visible difference being that Sedum album has white flowers while Sedum Arce has yellow flowers. If you’re not sure, do not offer the plant to the Sulcata.

20. Rhipsalis

Rhipsalis hanging in a basket
Rhipsalis hanging in a basket

This plant is also known as the mistletoe cacti and is suitable for consumption. Part of the Cactaceae family, there are several species and cultivars available, and turtles and tortoises seem to love them.

There are about sixty different species out there and the leaf shapes vary widely, so you’ll want to pay close attention, as some have soft spines which can be irritating to the Sulcata.

If you are unsure if the plant you wish to offer your Sulcata is a mistletoe cactus, then refrain from offering it. ‘Christmas’ Mistletoes (Phoradendron serotinum) are toxic, so just to be clear, those are definitely off the menu!

21. Opuntia Cactus

Green leaf Opuntia Cactus
Green leaf Opuntia Cactus

This cactus is commonly known as the prickly pear cactus and it is part of the Cactaceae family. The fruits are referred to as prickly pears.

This is a very common cactus and both the fruit and pads are edible and may be offered to turtles and tortoises. Opuntia ficus indica is one of the more popular cultivars to feed to chelonians as it has very few spines that you’ll need to remove in advance.

22. Mother of Pearl Plant

Cutout of a mother of pearl plant
Cutout of a mother of pearl plant

Mother of Pearl is a jade plant and the leaves form a lovely rosette pattern. That pattern makes it a popular plant in many gardens in temperate climates and tortoises just so happen to love it!

Mother of pearl plant is also commonly known as ghost plant, not to be mistaken for Monotropa uniflora, which is also sometimes called ‘ghost plant’ as well. Mother of Pearl is part of the Crassulaceae family and its biological name is Graptopetalum paraguayense.

Sulcatas can eat both the succulent leaves and the flowers.

23. Showy Stonecrop

Showy stonecrop is another succulent that tortoises seem to love
Showy stonecrop is another succulent that Sulcata tortoises find delicious!

This plant is also known as iceplant or butterfly stonecrop, and the iceplant moniker comes from its ability to grow in freezing temperatures as low as 5 °F or -15 °C. There are several cultivars available and as these plants are ornamental, they can be found in many gardens.

Showy stonecrop is part of the Crassulaceae family, and its biological name is Hylotelephium spectabile or Sedum spectabile. This succulent is considered delicious by most tortoises and may be offered in moderation.

24. Houseleeks

Houseleek in a blue pot
Houseleek in a blue pot

These are also known as hens and chicks. There are about forty different houseleek species, but the biological namefor houseleeks is Sempervivum and it is part of the Crassulaceae family.

Sempervivum are succulent perennials that grow quite rapidly under the right conditions and they are endemic to Northern Africa, through the Middle East, Asia, and Eastern Europe.

These plants are great for your tortoise but like the other succulents, offer them only in moderation.

25. Heartleaf Iceplant

Heartleaf Iceplant
Heartleaf Iceplant

This is another excellent succulent to offer your turtle or tortoise. Part of the iceplant family (Aizoaceae), this flat-growing perennial succulent that tends to grow low to the ground and has distinctively small, succulent leaves. This plant creeps on the ground and reaches a height of just 4 inches (10 cm).

If you wish to grow it, we’d recommend growing using a hanging basket and placing it where it can get full sun. The heartleaf iceplant usually produces red flowers, but they also come in pink, white, purple, and yellow.

The biological name of this succulent is Mesembryanthemum cordifolium or Aptenia cordifolia, so be sure to jot that down if you’d like to get some from your local nursery.

26. Haworthia

Haworthia Succulent in a plant pot
Haworthia Succulent in a plant pot

Another succulent to offer your Sulcata is Haworthia. Commonly kept as a potted plant, Haworthia is small, with leaves that are about 1.2 inches (3 cm) to 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter, although the size will vary a little based on the species and you can find large-leafed varieties.

The fleshy leaves of this plant make for a nutritious snack for your tortoise and Haworthia includes all plants part of the genus Haworthia, from the family Asphodelaceae.

27. Gasteria

Gasteria gracilis Baker
Gasteria gracilis Baker

Tortoises like eating Gasteria but keep the offered amounts low – it’s also a mild laxative!

Gasteria is a genus of about 22 species, and there are several cultivars as well. The flowers of this plant are stomach-shaped and may be green, pink, white, orange, and red. The leaves are generally tongue-shaped, although some of the species and cultivars have pointed leaves.

28. Echeveria

Echeveria Peacockii succulent
Echeveria Peacockii succulent

Like houseleeks, plants from the echeveria genus are often referred to as ‘hens and chicks’. This plant is suitable for Sulcata consumption and they can snack on the stems, flowers, and leaves. This plant is either deciduous or evergreen and the leaves form distinctive, compact rosettes.

This rosette pattern of the leaves makes them a popular plant to grow at home, and the genus contains over 150 species that you can choose from!

29. Cacti & Succulents to Avoid

Mother of Thousands is toxic to chelonians and best avoided
Mother of Thousands is considered toxic to tortoises and turtles so keep it off the menu!

Not all cacti and succulents are suitable. Some are toxic and can cause serious complications or even death, so it’s important to be very careful what succulents you offer to your tortoise.

Some cacti and succulents to avoid include the following:

  • Euphorbia (commonly known as spurge)
  • Sedum Acre
  • Panda Plant (also known as elephant ear kalanchoe, pussy ears, felt bush, and chocolate soldier)
  • Paddle Plant (also known as desert cabbage, red lips kalanchoe, flapjack plant)
  • Mother of Thousands (also known as alligator plant, devil’s backbone, chandelier plant, Mexican hat)
  • Flaming Katy (also known as Kalanchoe)

Medvet has an excellent article on Sulcata care, behavior, and diets that you can read here when you’re done if you would like to learn more!

Vegetables to Avoid

There are several vegetables that you will definitely want to to avoid offering to your tortoise. Some of these are commonly found around the house, so be sure to pay close attention to this section to help avoid some common dietary pitfalls.

Let’s take a look at the veggies that should NOT be part of your tortoise’s diet.

1. Aubergine/Eggplants

Aubergine hanging down ready to be picked
Aubergine hanging down ready to be picked

Eggplant is high in solanaceous alkaloids, which are considered toxic to turtles and tortoises. While some owners still feed it to tortoises, it is really best to avoid them and give your tortoise a non-toxic option instead.

2. Chili Pepper

Chili Pepper plant
Chili Pepper plant

As you already know, chili peppers are HOT, and also an irritant to the eyes, tongue, and skin. As it turns out, this applies to tortoises as well, so keep these away from your Sulcata.

3. Legumes

Variety of Legumes
Variety of Legumes

Avoid legumes such as beans, peas, bean sprouts soybeans, and mung beans as they are simply too high in protein and this can lead to an accelerated growth rate and the health problems that can go with this.

Also, avoid offering broad beans and Adzuki beans — they are high in phytic acid, which acts like oxalates and can interfere with calcium absorption.

4. Celery

Celery growing from the bottom half of a celery stalk in a bowl of water
Celery growing from the bottom half of a celery stalk in a bowl of water

While not toxic, celery is packed with carbs and sodium, so it’s basically the equivalent of ‘tortoise junk food’. Celery also has high oxalate levels, so it’s best just to keep these out of your Sulcata’ tortoise’s’s diet.

5. Parsnip

Parsnips
Parsnips

Parsnips have a chemical in them called furanocoumarin, which acts as an irritant for turtles and tortoises. For this reason, it isn’t a suitable plant to offer them.

6. Onions, chives, and garlic

Onions, chives, and garlic come from the Allium family, which is toxic for turtles and many other animals.
Onions, chives, and garlic come from the Allium family, which is toxic for turtles and many other animals.

While humans LOVE onions, chives, and garlic, these plants are part of the genus Allium and vegetables from this family are toxic to most animals. This definitely includes tortoises, so keep these veggies off of the menu.

7. Corn

Corn ready to be harvested
Corn ready to be harvested

Corn is high in protein, sugar, and phosphorous, so while tortoises love it corn is unsuitable for tortoise consumption. Sulcatas can eat the leaves of the plant, however, so if you’re growing corn then this part of the plant is okay.

8. Potatoes

Bag of Potatoes
Bag of Potatoes

Potatoes contain chaconine and glycoalkaloids solanine, which can cause diarrhea and headaches for tortoises. High levels of these chemicals can even lead to death, so it’s important to avoid feeding your tortoise potatoes — even cooked ones, like baked potatoes or french fries!

9. Rhubarb

Rhubarb on a picnic table
Rhubarb on a picnic table

Rhubarb plant has high levels of glycosides, which can harm a tortoise’s kidneys, liver, and heart. Additionally, it is high in oxalic acid, so it can interfere with the absorption of calcium.

10. Tomato

Tomatoes growing on a vine
Tomatoes growing on a vine

Turtles absolutely adore tomatoes, but they are simply too high in sugar and phosphorous. The fiber content is also very low, so combined these properties make ‘tomatoes a nutritional option that should be avoided.

Curious about what else Sulcata tortoises like to eat? Find out more in our informative guide!

Frequently Asked Questions

What percentage of a Sulcata tortoise’s diet should be vegetables?

Vegetables shouldn’t be the main food to feed a Sulcata, but rather they should make up about 10 to 15 percent of the tortoise’s overall vegetation.

Sulcatas eat a diet consisting of 80% hay, grasses, and vegetables, and 20% flowers, fruits, and supplements. Some vegetables we’d recommend include kale, escarole, dandelions, collard green, broccoli, pumpkin, winter squash, and carrots.

What common foods should Sulcata tortoises not eat?

There are several foods to avoid giving to Sulcata tortoises, but one of the biggest to avoid are processed human foods such as pastries and sweets, cheese or dairy products, grains, and legumes.

While your tortoise may like them, they are simply too high in sugars, fats, preservatives, and chemicals that may be fine for you but toxic for your pet.

Can Sulcata tortoises eat rice?

While small amounts won’t hurt them, rice is not a natural food source for tortoises, and in large amounts, rice could cause health issues down the line. It’s also high in starches, so it’s not really nutritious, and best avoided.

In a similar vein, you should also avoid feeding your Sulcata pasta, oats, cookies, and bread.

What vegetables can Sulcata tortoises eat? The Conclusion

Sulcata tortoises are quite easy to feed, as these beautiful herbivores aren’t very picky at all. That said, vegetables should make up a small portion of their diet and some are definitely better than others.

While most vegetables are acceptable, you should avoid options like tomatoes, beans, bean sprouts, peas, chili peppers, and corn – these have poor nutritional profiles and in the case of peppers, may even cause painful discomfort for your tortoise.

Avoid vegetables from the Allium family as well, such as onions, chives, and garlic – these are all toxic — and vegetables with high sugar or high protein content should also be avoided. If you are unsure of a food, it is best to do proper research on that food before offering it to the tortoise.

Now that you have a good idea of what they can and can’t eat, you should have everything you need to start crafting a nice, varied diet that your tortoise will LOVE!

Sulcata tortoises are among the 10 biggest tortoises on the planet and if you’d like to find out about the others, we’ve got you covered!

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