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Saururus cernuus (Lizard's tail)
Marcus, Joseph A.

Saururus cernuus

Saururus cernuus L.

Lizard's tail, Lizard's-tail, Breast weed, Water dragon

Saururaceae (Lizard's-Tail Family)


USDA Symbol: sace

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

An upright, hairy perennial, growing to 4 ft. in height. Slender, nodding, solitary spikes of tiny, white flowers occur opposite a leaf. Leaves are lance-shaped to nearly triangular with a cordate base. Many tiny, fragrant, white flowers are on a slender, tapering, stalked spike with a drooping tip.

This is a mostly southern species of shaded marshes and stream margins. The common name and the genus name, from the Greek sauros (lizard) and oura (tail), depict the shape of the drooping flower cluster.


Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Size Class: 1-3 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , MI , MO , MS , NC , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , WV
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: S. New England to MI & IL, s. to FL & TX
Native Habitat: Still water Wet lowlands; stream & lake edges

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Aquatic: yes
Soil Description: Wet soils. Mud.
Conditions Comments: The common name refers to the long, finger-like flowers that appear during the summer months. Crushed foliage has a pleasant, sassafras aroma. Lizard tail is a great spreading groundcover for moist soils, shallow water, and containers. Good for wetland gardens and habitat. Colonizes large areas. Can withstand saturated soils of up to 4 in. inundation.


Use Ornamental: Water garden, Bog or pond area
Use Wildlife: Valued by wood ducks.
Use Medicinal: Also called breast weed, as it was used to treat inflammation of the breasts and other portions of the body. (Lamb/Rhynard)
Warning: The young shoots and leaves provide forage for cattle and sheep, but when overeaten this plant may be toxic. Humans should generally avoid ingesting plants that are toxic to animals.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds
Deer Resistant: High


Propagation Material: Root Division
Description: Not Available
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Not Available
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Suppliers Directory

According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Native Plant Nursery - Sanibel, FL
Sunshine Farm & Gardens - Renick, WV
Toadshade Wildflower Farm - Frenchtown, NJ

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Nueces River Authority - Uvalde, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-1078 Collected 2007-08-21 in Marion County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

1 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 1262 - Plants of Carolinian Canada (1994) Lamb, Larry and Gail Rhynard
Bibref 328 - Wildflowers of Texas (2003) Ajilvsgi, Geyata.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Saururus cernuus in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Saururus cernuus in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Saururus cernuus


Record Modified: 2013-09-12
Research By: TWC Staff

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