I am a huge fan of foraging wild plants (and home grown, which i will look at in another post) as feed for guinea pigs. I am only going to list my favorites here as it is an extensive list if i wrote them all down! These are all commonly growing plants in the UK however can be found in other countries too!
Wild Geranium (Cranesbill)
Please note these are not the same plant as Pelargonium Geraniums.
I love Wild Geranium as do Guinea Pigs it is absolutely one of their favorite snacks. Tare are over 420 variates of Geranium, all of which are edible to Guinea Pigs. Once you start spotting these beautiful plants the more and more you will see, there are that many! They grow from great big bushes, which usually keep quite the spherical shape to the tiniest little plants with leaves a few cm wide hidden in the shade of bigger plants in a flower bed, flat and round leaved growing in the grass. The flowers are always the same shape, just smaller or bigger, 5 petals in shades of white, pink, purple and blue. The petals tend to be heavily veined but not always, I always think of them being papery. The leaves all have the same base shape to to speak, three separate sections coming from the circular center, however the leaves can be rounded in shape or pointed, they are always very soft to touch and the geranium has long stems for both leaves and flowers. Once the flower dies, it develops a long tapered seed pod, where the name “cranesbill” comes from.
Not only do cranesbill grow wild, but they are very easy to buy (in the uk at least) from garden centers, usually in the “cottage garden” section, where you will discover some mor
e wonderful variates.
not the same at the fruity variety of plantain!
Plantain is another really good little forage plant, predominantly growing in grass but will make it’s way into flower pots and beds, this time of year it will be flowering. There are two variates, long leaf and broad leaf. The long leaf tends to be the larger plant, growing quite big.
The above are a long leaf flower, which when blooming has the tiniest white petals and the leaf of the the long leaves plantain or ribwort.
A couple of broad leaves and their flowers, they can be yellowish in colour. All Plantain have white strings which if you pick the leaf will be hanging out of the bottom, it very easily peels out. Something i used to do a lot as a child!
Mallow :Malva sylvestris
Also called malva, Mallow looks very similar to some wild geranium, and is just as edible, these plants can grow incredibly large, I found one almost as tall as i am the other day and much broader. Usually these grow in grass verges, by the roadside or again, popping up in the odd flower bed.They love the sun!
The leaves are much more rounded that Geranium, also the pink or purple flowers are thicker petaled and have much darker and more prominent veins on them. They are also edible for humans.
To many bramble is the most surprising plant as Guinea Pig food! As a general rule the thorns will soften after the plant has been cut, however Guinea Pigs prefer to have the softer pale, young leaves and the fruit. Where as rabbits like it all!
Dandelion along with Hieracium (hawkweed) & Leontodon (hawkbit)
All really good little plants for feeding, the hawkweed and hawkbit have much smaller leaves and flowers than Dandelions, and are also referred to as false Dandelions. I think all Guinea Pigs absolutely love these, especially the crunchy stems of Dandelion flowers, yum yum! Care must be taken with the over feeding of these plants though as they are high in calcium, potentially leading to health issues such as bladder sludge or formation of bladder stones.
All of these plants dry amazingly, which is a perfect thing to do. Now when it’s warm its worth collecting some and laying out in trays in the sun to crisp up. Once dried they can be stored for winter, or chopped up into pieces to be mixed into their hay, or put into forage bags or boxes.
I shall be doing a post on some herbs I am currently drying at work once I do a secondary one on herbs and other garden plants/flowers that are safe for feeding to Guinea Pigs also.
I hope this was informative and useful to you and your Piggies!