We are so excited! A gopher tortoise has chosen our yard for his (her?) home. What kind of plants do I need to plant to help encourage our new friend to stay with us?
You are very lucky to live in a location that supports the iconic gopher tortoise. Hopefully, you are near an appropriately sized upland natural area that supports this species. In any case, we want to help you support this species to help their health and survival.
Native plants that support this species are fruiting plants like gopher apple, licania michauxii; prickly pear, opuntia species (spp.); native grapes and cultivated grapes, vitis spp.; blueberries, vaccinium spp.; saw palmetto, serenoa repens; blackberry, rubus spp.; and many, many more.
Plants that gopher tortoises graze on include native wildflowers grasses, grass-like plants such as wiregrass, aristida spp.; hairsedge, bulbostylis spp.; flatsedge; most cyperus spp.; and nutsedge, scleria spp.
The good news is that you can also use some of Florida’s beautiful native wildflowers like verbenas, glandularia spp.; Florida paintbrush; carphephorus corymbosis; golden asters, chrysopsis spp.; tickseed (state wildflower); coreopsis spp.; portulacas, portulaca spp.; and blanketflower, gaillardia pulchella (even though this species has recently been determined to not be native.)
This is a short list and there are many more plants that can support gopher tortoises including some popular landscape plants like cocoplum; beautyberry; native plums; and winged sumac. Some species are going to be difficult to locate, but your best bet is to consult with your local native nursery at http://www.PlantRealFlorida.org or contact your local Extension Office of the University of Florida.
The primary problem that gopher tortoises face is loss of habitat. With your help, we can save upland natural areas like the West Klosterman Preserve to assist these unique and wonderful animals in survival!