A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

Green Anole - Anolis carolinensis

(Voigt, 1832)
Click on a picture for a larger view
Green Anole California Range MapClick on the map for a topographical view

Red: Areas within which this non-native species has been observed and could be established. This anole appears to be expanding its range in California and is very likely to be found in other areas not shown here.

If you find a Green Anole in a place in California that is not shown in red on the map above, please email me and let me know where it was found.

Map with California County Names

List of Non-Native Reptiles and Amphibians
Established in California

More Pictures:

observation link

This species has been introduced into California. It is not a native species.

Green Anole
Adult in green phase
Green Anole
Adult in brown phase
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Adult male displaying his dewlap, San Diego County © Tom Day Adult, Redhawk area of Temecula, Western Riverside County, 2010,
from a population of anoles observed since 1993. © Curtis Croulet
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Adult, Chino Hills, San Bernardino County © Nate Loftin Adult found in a Newport Beach, Orange County, backyard. The photographer discovered that this lizard was one of three released in her neighbor's yard. If these lizards survive and breed, they could become established in the neighborhood. That's why it is a bad idea (and against the law) to release non-native reptiles.
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Adults from San Diego a few miles northeast of Balboa Park. © Robert Farwell
Adult, San Diego Zoo
© Walter Ray-Dulany
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Adult, Carlsbad, San Diego County
© Samantha Blattler
Adults, Huntington Beach, Orange County © Carol Robertson
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Adults from Tustin, Orange County
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Adult, San Diego Zoo, San Diego County © Caroline Roberti Adult from Tustin, Orange County © Kevin Strong
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Adult male showing the dorsal crest, Laguna Hills, Orange County
© Andrew Hausheer
Adult, Fountain Valley, Orange County
© Eric Lessenger
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Adult, Balboa Park, San Diego County
© Brian Flaigmore
Tiny juvenile, Chula Vista, San Diego County © Stan Budz This picture shows how well this lizard can blend in with its surroundings. Often they turn brown when they're on a brown surface, but this one remains green which makes it look like one of the leaves and vines. © Stan Budz
Green Anole Green Anole Great Basin Collared Lizard
Adult, San Diego County
© Chris DeGroof
Brown phase adult, San Diego County
© Chris DeGroof
Green Anoles, genus Anolis,
have small granular scales.
  Green Anole Habitat  
  One of the first places this species was known to have been established in California was at the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego County.  
Green Anoles From Outside California
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Adult, Jasper County, Texas Adult, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana Adult, Miami-Dade County, Florida
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Adult male displaying distended pink dewlap, Galveston County, Texas Adult male displaying distended pink dewlap (left) in green phase, and
moments later, in brown phase (right) Galveston County, Texas
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Adult male displaying distended pink dewlap, Galveston County, Texas Adult male, Miami-Dade County, Florida Adult, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
Green Anole Green Anole Green Anole
A light-phase green anole tried to catch a fly, but failed, Volusia County, Florida Adult male, Liberty County, Florida Adult jumping, Broward County, Florida
Green Anole Green Anole  
Adult, Travis County, Texas  
Short Videos
Green Anole Green Anole Green Anole
A male green anole in Chambers County Texas displays his pink dewlap. A male green anole in Chambers County Texas quickly changes his color from green to brown. A light-phase green anole in Florida tries to catch a fly, but fails.
Adults are usually 3 inches (7.6 cm) long from snout to vent, and about 5-8 inches (12.7 - 20.3 cm) including the tail.

A small thin lizard with a long head and snout and a long thin tail.
Color and Pattern
Skin color varies: at times it's plain green, plain brown, or mottled green and brown.
Dark streaks or spots may occur, often giving the appearance of a light stripe on the back in any color phase.
Male/Female Differences
Males can extend a pink dewlap (a pouch on the throat) when trying to attract a female and when displaying their territory. Sometimes the dewlap appears to be orange or red.

Life History and Behavior

Diet and Feeding
Small invertebrates and grasses.
Breeds from  April to August or September.
Males pursue females, bobbing up and down and displaying their colorful dewlap.
Females lay several clutches of eggs during the season, totalling about 10.
Eggs are buried in soft soil or compost.
Eggs hatch in 30 - 45 days.

This lizard is known from parks and residential yards and gardens, where it adapts well to non-native vegetation.

Geographical Range
Native to southern and southeastern North America, from South and Central Texas to the Florida Keys and north to North Carolina, and the southern parts of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

Introduced into the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California and probably elsewhere.

Origin of Green Anoles Found In California

Most likely, Green Anoles found in the wild in California were captive lizards that either escaped or were released. Green Anoles are common pet store animals, usually sold as pets or as food for lizard-eating reptiles. It is also possible that anoles or anole eggs could have been transported in shipments from their native range in Southeast North America. Eggs buried in the soil of potted plants is one possible method of transport. In areas where they have been established for a number of years, the anoles most likely represent the offspring of adults that were introduced years earlier. As Green Anoles spread more widely around California, it's possible they could also be transported from one California location to another.

Some Early Documented Populations in California

I don't know when and where this species was first documented in the state. The species is not mentioned in Robert Stebbins' 1972 book on California Amphibians and Reptiles or in the 2012 edition.
The earliest record I can find is a 1980 record in the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History from Northridge, listed as "escaped captive brought in by cat" though it does not state who kept the anole captive.

For many years a population of Green Anoles has been established at the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park which surrounds the zoo. This might represent the first established population in the state, but I'm not sure of that.

In a blog post on October 18th, 2013, the Los Angeles Natural History Museum reported a population of Green anoles in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. They added four specimens from Hancock Park to the museum on October first.


INaturalist includes a large list of observations of this species around the world with a map that will let you zoom in to see locations in California.

Green Anoles may not be established yet in the entire area shown on the map above, but they are likely to be found anywhere within it. Eventually they will probably range throughout much of coastal Southern California along with the Brown Anole. I will continue to add locations on the map as I learn of them.
If you find a Green Anole in a place in California that is not shown on the map above, email me.

Full Species Range Map
Notes on Taxonomy
Two subspecies have been recognized:
Anolis carolinensis carolinensis
Anolis carolinensis seminolus

SSAR Herpetological Circular No. 43, 2017 reports that these subspecies don't follow recent genetics studies and should no longer be recognized. However, it also reports that there is a possibility that A. carolinensis consists of more than one subspecies.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
The impact of this invasive species on native California lizards and other wildlife is not well known, however native lizards observed living in proximity with this species might suffer from the extra competition.

"Repeated surveys at other Southern California localities where nonnative Anolis carolinensis, Anolis sagrei, and Podarcis siculus occur have shown displacement of S. occidentalis as nonnative populations expand (Pauly, unpubl. data)."

(Gregory B. Pauly and Patrick D. Gavid. Geographical Distribution Note for Trachylepis quinquetaeniata in Los Angeles County. Herpetological Review 50(1), 2019.)
Family Dactyloidae Anoles Fitzinger, 1843
Genus Anolis (Norops) Anoles Daudin, 1802

Anolis carolinensis (Voigt, 1832)
Original Description

Anolis Daudin, 1803 - Hist. Nat. Rept., Vol. 4, p. 50
Anolis carolinensis (Voigt, 1832) - in Cuvier's Thierreich, Vol. 2, p. 71

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
West Indian anoli lizard — Native Antillean name

carolinensis - belonging to the Carolinas - refers to the area where it was originally discovered.

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Alternate Names
Carolina Anole
American Chameleon
Red-throated Anole
American Anole

Related or Similar California Herps
No native lizards are related, or green in color, but the brown phase is somewhat similar in shape and size and color to
Urosaurus graciosus
- Long-tailed Brush Lizard
Urosaurus ornatus
- Tree Lizard

More Information and References
Robert Powell, Roger Conant, and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Conant, Roger, and Joseph T. Collins. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Lizards, Lizards of the United States and of Canada. Cornell University Press, 1946.

R. D. Bartlett, Patricia P. Bartlett. A Field Guide to Florida Reptiles and Amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company. 1999.
Conservation Status

The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the January 2024 State of California Special Animals List and the January 2024 Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California list (unless indicated otherwise below.) Both lists are produced by multiple agencies every year, and sometimes more than once per year, so the conservation status listing information found below might not be from the most recent lists. To make sure you are seeing the most recent listings, go to this California Department of Fish and Wildlife web page where you can search for and download both lists:

A detailed explanation of the meaning of the status listing symbols can be found at the beginning of the two lists. For quick reference, I have included them on my Special Status Information page.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status you can also go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.

Organization Status Listing  Notes
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) none
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) none
California Department of Fish and Wildlife none
Bureau of Land Management none
USDA Forest Service none

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