My friend Paula had an interesting question about a column that I wrote on pests which came down to: “What about iguanas?” Sure, I talked about ant-proof and cow-proof plants, but what about those iguanas. Well, we don’t have many iguanas up here in the hills, but evidently the lizards in Paula’s part of the country ate all the raspberry shoots we gave her, so she has a point. What about iguanas?
Iguanas are primarily folivores, which stopped me right there.
Omnivore, herbivore, carnivore, okay, but folivore? As it turns out, that just means that most of the iguana diet is leaves and flowers, since flower petals are just modified leaves (Metric Man says so). This is not to say that they won’t occasionally snack on fruit, because they will.
It’s just that fruit doesn’t have the trace elements they need for a balanced diet.
Enough science, what about the lizards munching on your plants.
For the most part, iguanas are going to go for dark green foliage since it is highest in nutrients. The hibiscus, leaves and flowers, is a preferred lunch for a hungry iguana. In the vegetable garden, iguanas prefer the leafy vegetables: kale, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and the like and will also take the leaves from beets and sweet potatoes. They also have a taste for melons and squash.
Since iguanas can climb, keeping them out of the garden can be a challenge. This nice thing is that keeping iguanas out will also keep out rabbits. That “keep out” is fencing. Not just a surround fence, but a covering of fence. The only time I had a problem with something dining on my sweet potato plants (I am thinking rabbits), I solved it by covering the plants with chicken wire. This may not work for the iguana since it is not very sturdy but a heavier wire should work.
Since iguanas can climb trees, at least when small, putting an inverted cone around the trunk of the tree is a possible solution.
If you are just starting to plant and want to avoid attracting iguanas, try citrus trees, crotons, porterweed, and oleander. Lemon grass should be safe because of the flavor. You can also look for plants and trees that have thick leaves or a waxy coating on their leaves because they are all usually ignored by iguanas. For a border, try liriope or begonias and don’t forget to put in some ferns.
There are a lot of other plants that been investigated by the University of Florida for both resistance to iguanas and deer. You can find the list HERE!
Plant for the Week
There are so many different types of heliconia that I thought another picture was in order, so here it is. Why this one? The Heliconia mutisiana is fuzzy, which is a real treat for the eye (and the fingers) and there is a graceful curving sweep to the pendulant inflorescence. The plant grows to 5-6 feet (1.5 meters or so) and is a lover of light shade.