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A Florida Guide to Gopher Tortoise Friendly Plants

Gopher tortoises graze on a variety of native and nonnative plants, including broadleaf grasses, wiregrass, prickly pear grass, wild grape, blackberry, blueberry, and many more. They generally feed within 160 feet of their burrows but have been known to travel more than twice that distance to meet their foraging needs.

If you are fortunate enough to share your property with a gopher tortoise and its burrow or are looking to attract a gopher tortoise to your yard, there are ways you can help this threatened species. Plants can be added to your property that gopher tortoises feed on. Many of these plants will blend in beautifully with your landscaping while also attracting native species of birds and butterflies.

A Florida Guide to Gopher Tortoise Friendly Plants provides lists of trees, shrubs, vines, flowers and grasses which gopher tortoises like to eat.

Plants you are considering to improve forage for gopher tortoises in Florida have varying levels in terms of their quality as food for tortoises. Forage importance is classified as very high, high, moderate and low:

  • Very High Level forage species produce generally very high biomass; tortoises seek them out and prefer these plants over other available species.
  • High Level forage species produce high biomass; tortoises seek them out.
  • Moderate Level forage species are those that tortoises will seek out but they produce a low to moderate amount of biomass or may produce a lot of biomass for a very short amount of time (as in seasonal fruits).
  • Low Level forage species are those plants tortoises will eat when they are available or perhaps because that plant is all that is available. Tortoises may even avoid these plant species when others are available. Some very restricted seasonal fruits (that are preferred and sought out) are classified as low level because they are so rarely available to the tortoises in any quantity, and the tortoise must compete with other wildlife for the biomass amount that is available.

To discover which plants suit the needs of gopher tortoises and also grow where you live, find your FWC region (see map below) and click on the corresponding links.