ROSES 101: Larry & Lucille, a Lounge Lizard Love Story
by: Kim Austin, ARS Consulting Rosarian
I’m not what you would call a sentimental person. I’ve never read a Nicholas Sparks book, preferring the latest horror movie to a chick-flick any day. However, I’m going to tell you a story about the two green anole lizards that have taken up residence on my front porch this year. I have fondly named them Larry and Lucille. Quite crazily I have found myself talking to them on these warm summer days when I take a book out to read on my porch and find them basking in the warmth. An anole looks a lot like the gecko lizard in the car insurance commercial, so I keep expecting a reply in a British accent.
Now, I’m normally very squeamish when it comes to creepy crawlies. I know that all creatures have a place in nature (except mosquitoes) and generally will try not to kill anything. I just don’t like to be surprised by jumpy things when I’m out weeding or working in the rose garden. I have a deathly fear that something is going to jump on my face or get stuck in my hair, and I will die of a heart attack before it
even bites me. Maybe I need to cut back on the horror movies… My garden plays host to the usual assortment of creatures: snakes, voles, foxes, owls, frogs, hawks, rabbits, spiders, squirrels, etc., and they for the most part are welcome here. I have greatly cut back on my use of insecticides in the past few years, trying to build up an army of beneficials to do the work for me. I found Larry, a male green anole lizard, clinging to the brick wall as I was pruning ‘Lamarque’, my climbing white noisette, last year. I thought then that his days would be numbered with the large bird presence around and as small as he was, he would soon be gobbled up. This year I spotted Lucille, who is about an inch longer and much more skittish around people.
Male green anoles inflate a pink dewlap under their throat when they feel aggressive or to attract a female. A female usually has a pale dorsal stripe down its spine. They are also commonly called “American chameleons” because they can change their color from green to brown depending on their mood, temperature or surroundings. Anoles are great to have in the garden. They eat tons of insects — spiders,
moths, roaches and crickets. They can bite a human if they feel threatened and have the amazing ability to lose their tail in a fight and stay alive. They can grow anywhere from 3 to 7 inches and can live from four to eight years. The female lays a clutch of eggs in moist soil or leaf litter in the spring. Larry and Lucille love to bask in the sun during the warm days, climb the columns on the porch and leap into my hanging ferns for cover from birds. They are very territorial and their area usually includes a basking area and a hiding area.
Lizards are among the vast number of beneficials that you should welcome to your garden. Not only are they fascinating to watch, their presence is a sign that you have a healthy and thriving living garden. Lucille is shy and does not like to have her portrait taken, but Larry is a ham. He’s not the least bit afraid of me, which is unusual. I do hope he plans to stay around a while, as long as he doesn’t start singing “I Left my Heart in San Francisco,” like a true lounge lizard.
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