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

Saururus cernuus

Saururus cernuus L.

Lizard's Tail, Lizard Tail, Breastweed, 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.

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.


From the Image Gallery

24 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Schizocarp
Size Notes: Up to about 4 feet tall.

Bloom Information

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


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
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 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

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Research Literature

Reslit 212 - Wood and stem anatomy of Saururaceae with reference to ecology, phylogeny, and origin of the monocotyledons (1995) S. Carlquist, K. Dauer and S. Y. Nishimura
Reslit 152 - Production and chemical composition of Saururus cernuus L. at sites of different fertility (1972) C. E. Boyd and W. W. Walley
Reslit 300 - Angular leaf spot disease of Saururus caused by Phaeoramularia saururi comb. nov (1999) P. W. Crous, N. E. El-Gholl, S. E. Walker and T. S...
Reslit 957 - Nursery production techniques for obligate wetland species (2006) K. K. Moore, L. Fisher and D. L. Sutton
Reslit 1050 - Beaver herbivory on aquatic plants (2007) J. D. Parker, C. C. Caudill and M. E. Hay
Reslit 1098 - Evidence for stigmatic self-incompatibility, pollination induced ovule enlargement and transmitting tissue exudates in the Paleoherb, Saururus cernuus L. (Saururaceae) (1999) V. Pontieri and T. L. Sage
Reslit 1114 - Prevalence of chemical defenses among freshwater plants (2005) A. C. Prusak, J. O'Neal and J. Kubanek
Reslit 1402 - Xylem potential- and water content-breakpoints in two wetland forbs: indicators of drought resistance in emergent hydrophytes (2009) B. W. Touchette and A. R. Frank
Reslit 1403 - Ecophysiological responses of five emergent-wetland plants to diminished water supply: an experimental microcosm study (2010) B. W. Touchette, L. R. Iannacone, G. Turner and A....
Reslit 1416 - Floral development in Saururus cernuus (Saururaceae): 1. Floral initiation and stamen development (1975) S. C. Tucker

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

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: 2023-02-24
Research By: TWC Staff

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