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Chelone glabra

white turtlehead add to wishlist

Plant types and subtypes: Perennials

Light Requirements: sun, part-sun, part-shade

Water Use: medium

Soil Moisture: moist, wet

Soil Description: acid, rich, loam, clay, sand

Height: 2'-3'

Bloom Time: August, September

Bloom Color: white

Leaf Color: green

Hardiness Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Additional Tags: attracts butterflies, attracts hummingbirds, clumping, colonizing, naturalizing, pond margin plant, stream margin plant

Flower of Chelone glabra (white turtlehead)
  • Flower of Chelone glabra (white turtlehead)
  • Flower of Chelone glabra (white turtlehead)
  • Flower of Chelone glabra (white turtlehead)
  • Flower of Chelone glabra (white turtlehead)

Pricing & Availability

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Some plants might not be available to you due to quarantine restrictions, or nursery limitations.

To make it easier for you to buy locally, we will sort the available nurseries based on their distance to your garden.

Description

Chelone glabra

Also known as:

white turtlehead

,

turtle heads

Scientific Synonyms:

Chelone chlorantha, Chelone montana

Description

Chelone glabra is a little gem with a robust upright habit, a small footprint, and attractive lance-shaped leaves. Topping off at about 3’ when in bloom, the stiff central is terminated by a dense flowering spike. The flowers are white, and at about 1 ½”, quite large relative to the plants size. They are reminiscent of snapdragon flowers, though some would say they look more like a turtle head (who would have guessed?). The individual flowers may be short-lived, however the blooming period extends for up to a month. Of particular interest, this is one of few species that puts on a show towards the end of summer when very little else is in bloom.

Cultivation

Native to stream edges, swampy areas and wet meadows, white turtlehead is easy to grow under typical garden conditions, so long as the plants are well watered during dry spells. It will tolerate some shade, however this might lead to weak stems that will require staking. It is best grown in rich soil, but otherwise is not particular very particular and will adapt to heavy clay as readily as to sandy environments. Tips can be pinched back earlier in the growing season to encourage a more compact form. The root system consists of taproots and rhizomes. It can spread vegetatively, but does not do so aggressively. This is an excellent choice for rain gardens. The blooming period occurs from August to October and lasts about a month. Zones 3-8

Propagation

Easiest to propagate by root division when the plant is dormant in early spring or late fall. Plants propagated from seed will take a couple of years to flower.

Additional Notes

Both the genus and the common name are a reference to the flowers’ resemblance to a turtle’s head. Chelone is in fact Latin for the Greek word for turtle. In Greek mythology, Khelone was a nymph who made the faux pas of turning down the invitation to Zeus and Hera’s wedding. Since she couldn’t be bothered and prefered to stay at home, they changed her into a tortoise so that she would never need to leave her home again. Bummer. The specific epithet glabra, is commonly used in botany and describes the plant as glabrous, or hairless.

Native Range & Classification

Recorded County Distribution: USDA data

Native Range:
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV

USDA Endangered Status:

  • Exploitably Vulnerable: NY

Classification

Kingdom Plantae Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons
Subclass Asteridae
Order Scrophulariales
Family Scrophulariaceae Figwort family
Genus Chelone turtlehead
Species Chelone glabra white turtlehead