The UK has 6 native reptile species including the curious slow-worm (Anguis fragilis). Although serpent-like in appearance, slow-worms are in fact limbless lizards and an amazing example of de-evolution. Their ancestors once had limbs but their increasingly fossorial ecology meant that such appendages were a hindrance underground.

Unlike snakes, slow-worms have visible ears and eyelids which means they can blink like us. Known as autotomy and like many other species of smaller lizards, slow-worms can also shed and regrow their tails to escape predators. It is possible to tell adult male and female slow-worms apart (sexually dimorphism). Females have darker flanks with most individuals also sporting a black line running down the centre of their backs. Males can vary in colour ranging from grey, brown and coppery hues but their flanks are typically the same colour as the rest of their body. Some very mature males can have speckles along their back which in some cases are a vivid sky-blue colour. Baby slow-worms (neonates) are born live in late summer and in most locations are a golden-yellow colour with black flanks and a bold line running down their backs.  

So why are slow-worms the gardener’s best friend? Nick Dobbs – CRT’s Friendship Development Manager is also a licensed herpetologist and explains that “slow-worms can live for up to 30 years and feed on a variety of invertebrates but are especially partial to slugs. Their presence can be an important indicator of a balanced eco-system not adversely impacted by pesticides and predation by non-native species such as pheasant and pets”

The CRT actively surveys reptile populations at many of our properties and undertake habitat management practices that encourage their presence. 

By Nick Dobbs, Friendship Development Manager