Lizard’s tail (Saururus cernuus) is a perennial native to Eastern and Southeastern North America. Don’t you just love that common name, lizard’s tail? The scientific name, Saurus cernnus, is derived from the Greek word sauros, meaning lizard, and oura, meaning a tail, thus the common name.
In our hot summer climate, lizard’s tail does best in the damp, wet areas in your landscape or for water or rain gardens. I have this native planted as a groundcover on the shady north side of my house foundation. However, it will grow in full sun with consistent soil moisture. A word of caution for the tidy gardener, it tends to spread and form large colonies when it’s happy, so beware.
In the early spring, the area in my garden is covered with mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). When the mayapples die back after blooming in the early spring, the lizard’s tail begins to emerge. Its mature height is one to two feet. Planting in succession provides a longer blooming season.
Lizard’s tail is deciduous (meaning it dies back in the winter and goes dormant) and grows in USDA planting zones 3 to 9. It has cordate (heart-shaped) leaves with upright zig-zag stems. Spiky racemes containing small white flowers emerge in June and have a pleasant citrusy fragrance. Small, green warty seeds will form later in the summer on the raceme, and the foliage remains until the first frost.
Best of all, lizard’s tail is highly deer resistant, and birds love the seeds. It also has no major insect or disease problems and can be easily propagated by root divisions or seed.
For a beautiful, spreading groundcover for a damp, wet area, consider planting our native lizard’s tail.