What Makes Broad Leaf and Narrow Leaf Plantain Such a Good Food for Tortoises?

Broad leaf and narrow leaf plantain are good foodstuffs for tortoises not only because they are easy to find, but also thanks to the various vitamins and nutrients they contains. When fed as part of a mixed diet, plantain can aid with the tortoise’s growth and generally promote good health.

Tortoises are fond of weeds, and the good thing about weeds is that they are easy to find and cost absolutely nothing! I regularly forage for weeds in my garden and local area, and can find a wide variety of weeds and wild flowers both to keep my tortoise’s diet interesting, and to guarantee they have everything they need to stay healthy.

Weeds are an integral part of a tortoise’s diet, and you need to make sure you offer them as one of your tortoise’s dietary staples. They come with many nutrients and vitamins necessary for a tortoise’s health and growth, which is why you should never rule them out.

When you notice weeds on your lawn, your instinct might be to get rid of them as soon as possible. But some of them might actually be quite useful, and as a tortoise owner it is well worth changing your mindset on this.

One of the weeds that commonly grows on lawns or fields is what’s known as plantain, which comes in two key varieties: broad leaf or narrow leaf plantain. These plants can be a good food source for your tortoise, and many people use them in their pet’s diet regularly.

Why are narrow lead and broad leaf plantain so good for tortoises? In this post, you’ll get some important information about these plants, which will hopefully illustrate just why they are considered such an important part of the tortoise diet.

Narrow Leaf and Broad Leaf Plantain – Why Are They So Great for Tortoises?

Although broad leaf and narrow leaf plantain can be found in a lot of places, you may feel a little uncomfortable trusting that a weed can be a food from the get-go. Especially if you’re a new tortoise owner, you’ll want to make sure everything you offer as part of the diet is safe, and this is totally understandable.

As such, you may not trust that plantain is the right way to go immediately, and you might feel you need some information on it before you introduce it to your pet’s menu.

The good news is that plantain is safe for tortoises, and it can become part of their diet without having to worry about side effects. The weed is part of the Plantaginaceae family, and it’s especially good fodder when part of a mixed diet.

Besides, the plant is rich in nutrients, and even humans can consume it, usually in a cooked form (although I must admit I haven’t tried it myself!). Tortoises don’t need it cooked however– all you have to do is mix the leaves with the rest of their food and you’re good to go.

Plantain leaves contain some vitamins that are crucial for tortoises, such as:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Potassium
  • Zinc

Moreover, the plant is known to have antimicrobial properties, and it also has anti-inflammatory effects, and it acts as an analgesic. It can prevent bad infections and even boost the healing process in case of injuries.

Where Does Broad Leaf and Narrow Leaf Plantain Grow?

Plantain can grow pretty much anywhere. It is a European-native plant and also native to certain temperate areas throughout asia. However the weed has spread everywhere in the world with the exception of the arctic regions – probably not a problem as I don’t believe there are many tortoises there!

Besides growing on fields or your lawn, plantain can also be found on roadsides, sidewalks, meadows, and garden beds. Because of this, it is very easy to find, which makes it a very accessible weed if you want to feed it to your tortoise.

In fact I’d go as far as saying there isn’t really an excuse not to offer plantain to your tortoise.

What Does Plantain Look Like?

If you’re going to feed plantain to your tortoise, knowing how to identify it is key. Not only that, but you might also want to know the difference between broad leaf and narrow leaf plantain.

Broad lead plantain has leaves growing close to the ground in a rosette. As the name suggests the leaves are wide, have no hair or very little hair, and have a lance or egg shape. Most of the time, the leaves are around 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5cm) in length. One of the most distinguishing features of the leaf are the prominent parallel veins which are visible on the surface of the leaf. When breaking the leaf in half, you will see these veins exposed as ‘stringy’ fibres. From the middle of the rosettes, you can see flowers growing, and these are around 3-12 inches tall. They are colored and turn brown as the seeds become more mature.

The plant also comes back every year from the roots as it’s a perennial plant.

As the name suggests, narrow leaf plantain is distinguishable from its broad leafed cousin due to its narrower leaves. The leaves take the shape of lances, and they have three ribs. Also, surrounding the cylindrical head, you’ll see small white flowers growing between April and November.

Both varieties of plantain a perennial, meaning they will regrow every year from their roots, which is great news for gauranteeing you have ongoing stocks year after year.

Oh and it’s worth mentioning that plantain weeds shouldn’t be confused with water plantain or fruit plantain (otherwise known as cooking bananas) as these are not suitable for feeding to tortoises.

Which Tortoise Breeds Like Plantain the Most?

Plantain is safe for all tortoises, but some breeds may love it more than others. Depending on what breed your tortoise is, you may want to find out whether you should stock up on plantain, so you have it on hand whenever you’re preparing your pet’s meal. Really this just comes down to experimenting and seeing what your tortoise goes for.

I can say for sure that Russian and Hermann’s tortoises love plantain a lot, and you can combine the plant with dandelions and clover, as well as bramble leaves and chickweed, all of which are readily found in the same types of places as plantain.

The Bottom Line

Plantain, both broad leaf, and narrow leaf, is a nutrient-rich food for tortoises and it’s also very easy to find, which is what makes it such a super food. As long as you make sure to add it to a mixed diet, your tortoise will get a lot of benefits from it, and it will almost certainly love to eat it. So, if you have some broad leaf and narrow leaf plantain growing near your home, take advantage of it and let your tortoise enjoy one of nature’s greatest gifts.

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