En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - May 20, 2011

From: Columbus, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Food for a veiled chameleon in Columbus GA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Hi I own a Veiled Chameleon, and have been recently searching for different options as to live plant use for their cage. It has pretty much come down to using hibiscus plants and only hibicus plants. So I have been looking for a bonzai style hibiscus because half the beauty of owning a chameleon is the fact that you can appreciate it as a living decoration. There isn't too many hibiscus bonzais but the one I keep coming across is malvaviscus arboreus. I've never heard of another chameleon owner using this particular species. Chameleons are very sensitive to their environment, and even mild toxicity can be a death sentence. Many chameleons, especially veiled's, will eat plants to add a little vitamin variety to their insect diet. I was wondering if the malvaviscus arboreus is toxic at all? Even mild? And if you think it would be safe to house it along with a chameleon. Thanx in advance.


We understand that you are looking for a plant, preferably a hibiscus, to form as a bonsai for your chameleon's cage. Since we are not lizard experts, and are not even sure we can find a list of plants poisonous to reptiles, we will stick to what we know about, which is native plants. Is Malvaviscus arboreus (Turkscap) a candidate for bonsai? Probably not. Even a candidate for indoor growth in a cage? Definitely not.

Don't get us wrong, Turkscap is one of our favorite plants. It is native to Georgia and a perennial. For a partly shady or shady spot, especially where you want to attract hummingbirds, we would recommend it. However, it grows from 3 to 6 ft. tall (and taller, if it likes the spot), deciduous, blooms red July to September, and its native habitat is disturbed areas. It is classified as a coarse shrub, with heart-shaped leaves up to 5" or more in length. Pictures.

Now, the zinger. Malvaviscus arboreus (Turkscap) is not even a hibiscus, but a member of the Malvavaceae (Mallow) family. If you follow the above plant link to our webpage on this plant, you will see that one of its common names is "sleeping hibiscus," we don't know why, common names are a constant puzzle. We think you will agree that this is not a candidate for bonsai nor indoor use, nor a chameleon's cage.

Since we know less about the practice of bonsai than we do about lizards, here is an article from the Dallas Bonsai Gardens, The Bonsai Site. In an attempt to acquire a little knowledge about the animal in question, we found a very good article from kingsnake.com The Veiled Chameleon: Purchase and Captive Care. The plants recommended are not native, but then, neither is the veiled chameleon. You would be much safer taking advice about plants not harmful to your pet from those experts than from us.  Pictures of veiled chameleon from Google.





More Poisonous Plants Questions

Safety of hyrbrid and non-native trees for dogs and horses from Lawton OK
March 25, 2013 - Are Arrowwood Viburnum tree, Sargent Crabapple tree & the Washington Hawthorn tree safe for dogs & horses?
view the full question and answer

Skin Reaction form Cochineal on Prickly Pear
February 16, 2015 - I have severe burning and peeling skin on pads of fingers after touching "white stuff" on a prickly pear. White stuff tuned purple then burned skin even after washing hands. Skin has been cracking a...
view the full question and answer

Native plants toxic to horses
March 09, 2007 - I would like to landscape with native plants (I live south of you in Harlingen, TX) but I am concerned some might be dangerous to my horses. Do you have a list of either safe native plants or native ...
view the full question and answer

Is non-native mascagnia macroptera poisonous to animals from Hockley TX
February 17, 2014 - Is Mascagmia macroptra (Butterfly Vine) poisonous to animals (horses and dogs)?
view the full question and answer

Toxicity of Yucca leaves San Marcos, TX
August 19, 2009 - Can you tell me if Yucca constricta leaves are poisonous? I ran into one at night and the next morning had a hive-like, VERY itchy rash.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center