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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.





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