Use of Ornamental Plants in Herp Enclosures and as Food
Glenn works in the ornamental nursery business, is a state certified pesticide applicator, and is certified as a county agricultural inspector/biologist in the area of pesticide use enforcement. His primary job, however, is as a grower.
You Feed that Ornamental From the Nursery or Plant Store?
I personally would not feed any ornamental plants which came from a retail nursery to any of my animals. Ornamental growers generally use a lot of chemicals on their plants. They can range from the relatively non-toxic and short-lived to the very toxic and long-lasting. One of the problems you can run into is if you ask your local retailer if they use any pesticides; if they tell you no, they are probably telling you the truth. THEY didn't use any pesticides. The guy they bought the plants from, however, is another story. He has probably used any number of pesticides, fungicides, plant growth regulators, and chemical fertilizers...possibly within days of delivering to the retailer.
One of the other problems with ornamental plants is that many of the chemicals used are not registered for, and are prohibited from use on, plants that will be used for human or animal feed. There are little if any regulations on acceptable levels of residue. With vegetables, this is regulated (although most if not all of the produce you get at your local market has some pesticide residues) . Then there is the question of systemics (chemicals designed to be taken up through the root system and the leaves into the plant). They are not used that much in food agriculture but are used extensively in ornamental horticulture. Especially fungicides. Some can persist for a long time and move a good distance in the plant. Systemic fungicides are used much more than pesticides and can be quite toxic. There are some newer chemicals on the market which claim to have residual action for as long as 6 months. Most growers also add a spreader/sticker when applying pesticides/fungicides to increase their effectiveness. These do just what they say: help the chemical spread out over the leaves and also stick better to the leaves. This makes it harder to wash the chemicals off.
In other words, these plants are not grown with consumption in mind.
Non-Toxic Ornamental Plants Be Rendered Safe for Eating?
You can wash residues off the leaves of plants; they doesn't stay on them forever. A strong spray, especially on the undersides of leaves, will work. If you do this 2-3 times, letting the plant dry in between, you probably won't have problems with landscape plants. I wouldn't worry about plants that have been in your pen/yard for a while.
If anyone has a question about a specific chemical I can send them information about its toxicity, residual action, proper use, etc. My advice, however, is to grow the plants you want yourself, from seeds or cuttings.
Glenn is currently owned by koi, turtles and tortoises, including a 100 pound Sulcata. If you have questions on specific pesticides or fungicides, please email Glenn.
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