NEW: Wellington’s unique way of tackling ravenous iguana hordes


They slink along canal banks, burrow under sidewalks and strike fear into the hearts of small dogs.

Iguanas have posed a challenge to South Florida communities for years, as the large reptiles continue to breed and spread using the region’s sprawling canal system as a conduit.

WELLINGTON READERS: Sign up for The Post’s weekly newsletter for Wellington news

Wellington recently faced an issue caused by the growing number of iguanas along Southern Boulevard and the West Palm Beach Canal — and came up with a unique but seemingly simple solution.

Frustrated by the continued destruction of flowers in front of Wellington’s entrance signs along Southern, landscape and forestry operations supervisor Brian Hopper made a decision: Swap out the colorful flowers for another type of colorful plants. And have these colorful plants be ones iguanas do not like to eat.

“Brian got tired of having to replace them over and over again,” Village Manager Paul Schofield said.

According to a report from the University of Florida, the list of things iguanas enjoy eating is long and includes many plants popular in Florida landscaping: hibiscus, orchids, bougainvilleas, nasturtiums and turf grasses.

RELATED: Wellington offering free pickleball clinics this week

The list of iguana-repelling plants is much shorter and includes milkweed, oleander, citrus and some crotons, the UF report says. It also includes plants with tough, thick leaves. That’s where coleus comes in.

The brightly colored plant grows close to the ground and has thick, hearty leaves that iguanas reportedly hate, making it the perfect choice for Hopper, who recently ordered it to be planted in front of Wellington’s entrance signs along Southern Boulevard.

Frank Mazzotti, professor of wildlife at the University of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, said he had heard of homeowners swapping out plants to deter hungry iguanas, but this was his first time hearing of a municipality doing it. “I’m not surprised,” he said. “They have had a devastating effect on landscaping.”

RELATED: Repaving starts this week on Paddock Drive in Wellington

Mazzotti has worked with exotic species for three decades and said he’s seen iguanas “wipe out” new planting of some species, making the creatures especially disruptive for farmers during the growing season.

In Wellington, a recent visit to the Wellington sign at Southern Boulevard and Big Blue Trace showed promise. The coleus were there, bright in the afternoon sun after a rain storm — with not a nibble to be seen, despite several iguanas lurking nearby.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Wellington game shooting: Too close for one family in more than one way
Wellington game shooting: Too close for one family in more than one way

It all started with a cryptic text from their daughter. “I’m safe,” Hope Lerman had written to her parents, defense attorney Gregg Lerman and his wife, Debra. “I’m with Coach Pagley.” It was Friday night, and the Lermans had expected their daughter home late from one of the most highly anticipated football games...
UPDATE: Fuel tanker rolls over, injures 2 and shuts down I-95 lanes in Lake Worth
UPDATE: Fuel tanker rolls over, injures 2 and shuts down I-95 lanes in Lake Worth

7:30 P.M. UPDATE: According to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, the rollover crash involved a fuel tanker. Two people were injured and transported to a hospital by helicopter. All lanes were reported to be open. 7:05 P.M. UPDATE: According to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, the rollover crash involved a fuel tanker. Two people were injured and...
Shooting at high school football game not a ‘school’ shooting
Shooting at high school football game not a ‘school’ shooting

Detectives are still piecing together what really happened amid the pandemonium after a shooting at the Palm Beach Central-Dwyer high school football game Friday night. But they, school officials, parents and students alike by Saturday had all reached the same conclusion about the incident: it was not a “school” shooting. One or both of...
Wellington game shooting: Pre-K teacher huddles with teens in lockdown
Wellington game shooting: Pre-K teacher huddles with teens in lockdown

WELLINGTON – The moment pre-K teacher Britt Downey was ushered into a room by the front offices of Palm Beach Central High School late Friday, hours of code-red lockdown drills kicked in. Downey, who teaches students with autism at Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School, wound up under a desk in a room along with six teenage girls after shots were...
Florida man, 88, allegedly set raccoon on fire for eating his mangoes
Florida man, 88, allegedly set raccoon on fire for eating his mangoes

An 88-year-old man was arrested Friday for allegedly setting a raccoon on fire for eating mangoes in his yard in Palm Bay, WKMG-TV reports.  Ezra James told authorities he was afraid the raccoon would bite him and give him rabies, said WKMG.  A neighbor called 911 as the raccoon burned alive. "I throw some gasoline on him and I...
More Stories