Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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
1 rating

Monday - October 17, 2011

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflower Center, Water Gardens, Wildlife Gardens
Title: Hungry turtles trample pond in Houston Texas
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse

QUESTION:

I have a very large back yard pond (actually, a former swimming pool) that's home to a bullfrog, four Red-eared slider turtles, and scads of gambusia (little mosquito eating fish). I'd like to add native aquatic plants to improve the water quality, but is there anything that a Red-eared slider won't eat?

ANSWER:

 When taking on this challenge first make sure that the turtles you have in your pond are Red-eared sliders. When sliders are young they are mainly omnivorous, however cooters eat some meat but prefer to eat plants when young. Both will eat plants as they grow older but the cooters are the most voracious. They look a lot alike. If your turtles are indeed sliders then it might be that they don't have enough access to bugs, worms and other invertebrates.

Sliders also do ok with supplementing their diet with alternative greens. A little dish on a rock with some daily greens could wean them out of the habit of eating your plants completely. A variety of foods that Red-eared sliders enjoy in captivity are: Romaine lettuce, fig leaves, turnip or collard greens, green or wax beans, squash, tomato, bananas and blueberries. There are many more foods you can give them but it is worth looking this up on line, to make sure that you don't give them anything harmful. 

Here is a link to the list of the plants we have in our wetland pond here at The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We have a variety of turtles and other wildlife that live in the pond, and even more visitors frequent it daily. It is not terribly large, so your problem might be that you don't have enough plants in your pond to keep the turtles from causing trouble. They are curious about food and like to play with variety. Our wetland pond has thirty-one varieties of native plants. These plants attract bugs and other amphibians to the area which supplies our sliders with plenty to eat. 

You also need to make sure to have plenty of surface for the sliders to bask and hunt on. Logs work best, rocks work too. So think about the design of the pond and make sure you have areas for them to explore. Turtles are like kids, if they are bored they will sit down and eat until they sleep. Keep them occupied and confuse them with choices and I bet you will see an improvement in their overall health and behavior.

Pond plants in general reproduce rapidly. In theory if you have the ratio right and have more plants than animals, then the plants will be reproducing faster than your turtles can gobble them up. 

Here is a great link from Texas Parks and Wildlife that gives information about all of the turtles you might find in Texas. It has useful information about creating habitats as well as general identification tips. Don't give up, you are lucky to have a pool at your disposal. Don't let the little rascals get the best of you. Improve the variety of plants and beef them up in numbers and you should see your sliders, slide into a habit of basking more and eating less. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Swamp milkweed
Asclepias incarnata

Scouring-rush horsetail
Equisetum hyemale var. affine

American water-willow
Justicia americana

Common water nymph
Najas guadalupensis

American white water-lily
Nymphaea odorata

More Wildflower Center Questions

What are those bushes with purple flowers around the Wildflower Center?
March 09, 2009 - Hello! We were just at the Wildflower Center earlier this week (March 1 or so, 2009), and there were several large bushes with purple flowers on them. The very helpful docent told me what they wer...
view the full question and answer

Does the Wildflower Center sell Endangered Plant Species?
January 25, 2010 - Do you guy's sell endangered plants in Austin? Such as the Basin Bellflower, or the Texabama Croton?
view the full question and answer

Location of Elbow Bush and Gregg's Saddlebush at the Wildflower Center
March 10, 2016 - I have twice looked for Forestiera pubescens (Elbow Plant) and Mortonia greggi (Gregg's Saddlebush) in your gardens and have been unable to find. I have looked on the trails as well. Would you be a...
view the full question and answer

Ball moss (Tallandsia recurvata), epiphyte on oaks at Wildflower Center
April 06, 2006 - I visited your center a couple weeks ago, was very impressed with the educational aspects. I noticed the epiphyte commonly growing in the oak trees, and also on the elm oak. Do you have the name of t...
view the full question and answer

When does Ziziphus obtusifolia leaf and flower in Austin?
March 22, 2010 - Hello Mr. S.P., Do you know when the Texas buckthorn, Ziziphus obtusifolia (I believe), flowers (and leafs out) in Austin? Is there one at the Wildflower Center?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.