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Japenese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum)

Posted: 17 Sep 2017, 18:48
by Nina
This new section on our forum is for anyone to ask questions about plants, but we also thought that we would publish here some of the answers to questions that we get through our Contactus forms, in case they might be of interest to other tortoise keepers. A question came in today from someone with a Leopard tortoise in the USA, who lives in an area where Japanese Stiltgrass is plentiful and invasive. Here is our reply:

Several accounts say that deer will not eat it, and one was an account of an experiment to eradicate an invasion of Japanese Stiltgrass in Pennsylvania in an ecological way by bringing in goats to eat it. The first lot of goats refused to eat it, but eventually they did find some goats who would graze on it and no bad effects were observed in the goats. I can't find any indication that the leaves are toxic, but I did find some research that indicates it is allelopathic (meaning its roots give off a toxin that inhibits other plants species from growing near it) so that is an indication that maybe it shouldn't be fed, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there are toxins in the leaves.

Most scientific research on plants is in relation to mammals (humans and farm animals), and reptiles have different digestive systems and often can eat plants that would otherwise be toxic to animals, so it might be OK for your Leopard tortoise. I would like to know why deer and other grazing animals avoid it and that, combined with its allelopathic properties, makes me think that it probably isn't a great idea to feed it deliberately, but if he happened to nibble some that is growing nearby there probably also isn't any danger.

Sorry I can't be conclusive, but I think it's always best to err on the side of caution.