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Lizard’s Tail - Saururus cernuus

Lizard’s Tail - Saururus cernuus

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Saururus cernuus, commonly known as Lizard's Tail or Water Dragon, is a distinctive aquatic and wetland perennial native to eastern North America. Belonging to the Saururaceae family, this plant is known for its unique flowering structure, its preference for moist habitats, and its contribution to aquatic ecosystems.

Lizard's Tail is characterized by its lush, arrow-shaped leaves and its distinctive flower spikes that resemble the tail of a lizard. It typically grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet and spreads through rhizomes, forming colonies in suitable environments. The leaves are deep green, glossy, and attached to long petioles. They arise alternately along the stems and have a heart-shaped base.

The flowering structure of Saururus cernuus is particularly captivating. The flower spikes emerge above the water's surface on long stems, curving gracefully like the tail of a lizard. Each spike is adorned with small, fragrant white flowers that are densely arranged along its length. These flowers consist of small petals and numerous stamens, creating a visually interesting and texturally intricate display.

Most commonly found in wetlands, along stream banks, and in shallow ponds or marshes, it thrives in consistently moist to shallow aquatic conditions, making it an ideal choice for water gardens and landscapes with rain gardens or pond edges. It can tolerate partial shade to full sun, depending on the moisture availability. Its roots play a role in stabilizing shorelines and enhancing water quality by filtering nutrients from the water.

In aquatic settings, it can help control excessive nutrient levels by absorbing nutrients from the water. It may require occasional division to manage its growth and prevent overcrowding.

Lizard's Tail provides valuable ecological benefits in wetland ecosystems. Its roots help stabilize shorelines, reducing erosion, and its presence contributes to habitat diversity. The flowers attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and the plant provides shelter and forage for various aquatic insects and wildlife.


Light: Part Shade to Shade

Moisture: Wet to Moist

Form: Flower

Size: 2-3' tall by 1' wide

Life Span: Long-lived Perennial

Salt Water Flooding Tolerance:

Salt Spray/Soil Tolerance:

Soil: Clay, Loam, Orangic materia (muck), Sand

Zones: 8A, 8B, 9A, 9B, 10A, 10B


Flower Color: White

Bloom Season: Spring-Summer

Phenology: Evergreen, forms colonies

Noted for: Aroma, fragrance, showy flowers, interesting foliage

Recommended Uses: As a wetland plant, it's a good groundcover in wet areas, pond edges, bog gardens

Native Habitats: Shallow water streams, swamps, wet forests, ditches

Considerations: Can form dense patches


Wildlife: Eaten by wood ducks and other foraging birds. Nectar plant for hairstreaks and other insects esp. bees and flies, but apparently mostly wind pollinated. Reported to be liked by dragonflies for perching

Comments: Both the common and scientific genus names refer to the lizard-like shape of the drooping flower head.


Plant information sourced from FNPS

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