Saururus cernuus

Lizard's Tail

$3.00 - $17.50

1/8 oz.
1/4 oz.

Lizard’s Tail is a unique wetland plant; its inflorescence begins as a rather plain appendage that dangles amongst the foliage.  As the blooms progress, the flowering stalks elongate to just above the leaf layer.  The funky spike slowly unfurls skyward as loads of tiny white flowers burst open, starting at the base and blooming towards the tip.  Flowerheads reach 4 to 12 inches long and have a lovely aroma, often cited as a citrus or sassafras scent; the glossy heart- or arrow-shaped leaves are also fragrant, especially when disturbed.  Stems often turn a ruddy red and can showcase a zigzag pattern.  At the end of the season, the fluffy-looking flowerhead compacts into a strand of tightly woven, brown nutlets - the namesake of this plant: the dense seedhead looks like the armored scales on a lizard’s tail.  

Saururus cernuus is an emergent freshwater species that grows best in partial to full shade.  It will tolerate sunnier sites, but the leaves may become yellowed and scorched if there is not sufficient moisture.  This plant is commonly found near swamps, marshes, bogs, ponds, and other consistently wet sites.  When starting from seed, be sure to sow above the waterline so the sprouts aren’t flooded and drowned.  As the plant matures, it will naturally spread further into the murk.  Lizard’s Tail is rhizomatous and will create impressive colonies in the right conditions.  The tangled, fibrous root mass can be beneficial for erosion control and bank stabilization.  Although it is historically native to many coastal regions, it does not tolerate persistent saltwater environments.  Depending on weather and locations, deadheading can promote a second batch of blooms.

This species produces both pollen and nectar, but most of the pollinating visitors are small insects.  Lizard’s Tail is considered deer resistant; the foliage is toxic, especially when consumed in large quantities.  Wood Ducks and other waterfowl will eat the seeds.  Colony populations create dense cover, providing habitat and safe havens for shore birds as well as aquatic wildlife including turtles, frogs, salamanders, crayfish, and small fish.  

Also commonly called Water Dragon, American Swamp Lily, and Breastweed

1 Question asked on Saururus cernuus

Hi there! What is the native range for this species?
Hello Cavvy, Great question! The native range of this species covers most of the Eastern United States and as far west as Texas and Kansas. It travels as far south as Florida and north to Michigan and New York state. Range map can be found here: See Here


Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some species don't need any pre-treatment to germinate, but some species have dormancy mechanisms that must be broken before the seed will germinate. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, read our BLOG: How to Germinate Native Seeds

Dormant Bare Root Plants

We dig plants when they are dormant from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. Some species go dormant in the summer and we can ship them July/August. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants

Potted Plants

3-packs and trays of 32, 38, or 50 plants leave our Midwest greenhouses based on species readiness (being well-rooted for transit) and order date; Spring shipping is typically early May through June, and Fall shipping is mid-August through September. Potted 3-packs and trays of 38 plugs are started from seed in the winter so are typically 3-4 months old when they ship. Trays of 32/50 plugs are usually overwintered so are 1 year old. Plant tray cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays of 38 and 50, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs and trays of 32; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting & care instructions are included with each order.

Download: Planting and Care of Potted Plants

*PLEASE NOTE: we are a mail order nursery and have no retail facilities, but you may pick up your order if prior arrangements are made. Pick up orders are subject to **MN Sales Tax.

US Shipping & Handling Charges

SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
Retail SEED orders over $100.00 ship free!

Custom seed mixes or discounted seed sales over $100, add 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $9.00
over $50.00: 18% of the total plant cost. (For orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required.)

TOOLS and BOOKS have the shipping fee included in the cost of the product (within the contiguous US).

**We are required to collect state sales tax in certain states. Your state's eligibility and % will be calculated at checkout. MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders picked up at our MN location. Shipping & handling charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within 1-3 business days.

BARE ROOT PLANTS are shipped during optimal transplanting time: Spring (April-May) and Fall (Oct). Some ephemeral species are also available for summer shipping. Since our plants are field-grown, Nature sets the schedule each year as to when our season will begin and end. We fill all orders, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to the best of our ability depending on weather conditions beyond our control.

POTTED PLANTS (Trays of 32/38/50 plugs and 3-packs) typically begin shipping early May and go into June; shipping time is heavily dependent on all the species in your order being well-rooted. If winter-spring greenhouse growing conditions are favorable and all species are well-rooted at once, then we ship by order date (first come, first serve). We are a Midwest greenhouse, and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Pre-Designed Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically can't ship before early May. Earlier shipment requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

*We are unable to ship PLANTS (bare root or potted) outside the contiguous US or to CALIFORNIA due to regulations.


We ship using USPS, UPS and Spee Dee. UPS and Spee Dee are often used for expediting plant orders; they will not deliver to Post Office Box numbers, so please also include your street address if ordering plants. We send tracking numbers to your email address so please include it when you order.



Germination Code
Life Cycle
Sun Exposure
Partial, Shade
Soil Moisture
Wet, Medium-Wet
3 feet
Bloom Time
June, July, August, September
Bloom Color
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Code