Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Plant of the Week: White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)

This late summer, early fall flowering perennial gets its name from the individual flowers that resemble the head of a turtle.  This is the most common turtlehead in the state, the two pink species are quite rare.  This one occurs in wet meadows and woods across the state.  It has lance-shaped leaves that are hairless and serrated and for the most part, attach directly to the stem. The central stem, which can reach heights of 2-3' is softly hairy, and 4 angled.  The flowers are quite unique and this species can stay in bloom for 4 - 8 weeks.  The tubular flower is somewhat flattened with the upper lip acting as a protective hood and the lower lips serving as a landing pad for pollinating insects, which are primarily bumblebees.  The flower has no noticeable scent and the entire plant is bitter which means deer generally leave it alone.  This is the primary host plant for a rare butterfly in Kentucky, the Baltimore checkerspot.  This plant can tolerate wet soils and works well in a rain garden.  Good companion plants are pink turtleheads, spiderlily, joe-pye-weed, swamp milkweed, cardinal flower, and great blue lobelia.  All of these make excellent rain garden or polllinator garden plants. It does have a taproot with rhizomes and so it can make a nice, showy clump.  In the past, Native Americans used this to expel worms and to improve appetite (probably because it tastes so bitter you throw up and then are hungry).  Chelone is the Greek word for silence and folklore suggests this plant got its name (because the flower looks like a turtle head) because Chelone was a nymph who made the Gods angry because she didn't attend the marriage of Zeus to Hera.  Evidently, Zues got so mad he pushed her house on top of her and the Gods turned her into a turtle.  Hence from then until eternity Chelone was forced to carry her house on her back and condemed to silence.  So thats the rest of the story.  Until next time, happy gardening!

1 comment:

  1. White turtlehead is blooming in the wetlands at The Arboretum, 10-4-12, near the center of the raised 'island'.