Flower gardening is a rewarding hobby for those who enjoy beauty and color. Crab keepers have this added bonus: your hermit crabs LOVE to eat flowers. Insufficient research has been done on what is and is not safe for hermit crabs. There are some lists available, but they are based on the physiology of birds, lizards, and turtles--which are very dissimilar to hermit crabs. All plants contain toxins, so the plants that make the list are low in toxins known to cause problems in the particular animal for which the list was created. Still, these lists are a great place to start "pre-screening" a certain plant, and some of them include nutritional content which is invaluable!
It is my hope that our readers will share their own trials here, so that we can begin a safe flower list that is specific to hermit crabs. Here are some of the blossoms that have been proven successful with crabs:
Roses—all varieties of roses are safe (wild and tame varieties) as far as we know. Petals and rose hips are safe. Rose hips have lots of vitamin C and can also be found dried with the seeds removed in most healthfood stores. LolaGranola of Naturally Crabby has had a successful food trial on rose leaves.
Carnations—petals are safe. Avoid feeding all other portions.
Sunflowers—all parts seem to be safe. My crabs have never given the bright yellow petals any notice, but the unroasted, unsalted seeds are well liked. My crabs have spent some time feeding on leaves, although I would not call it a favorite food.
Violets—flowers and leaves are safe. My crabs have never shown these much attention, but other crab keepers have had better success. These pop up in lawns voluntarily, so the biggest concern when harvesting is finding a specimen that has not been exposed to turf builders, weed control products, and commercial fertilizers.
Pansies—are safe. Johnny-jump-ups are included in this category.
Tulips—petals are safe and well-received in the crabitat either dried, fresh, or frozen. (I think my crabs prefer them to be dried.)
Daylily—most lilies are poisonous, but this one seems to be the exception. Petals from the daylily are safe for crabs. You may have seen them in an Asian market where they are labeled “golden needles” (usually dried) and sold as seasoning for soup.
Those believed to be unsafe are:
daffodil, iris, ?