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, June 4, 2013

Plant of the Week: Turtlehead (Chelone spp.)

Look closely at the turtlehead flowers and yes, each individual flower in the cluster does resemble a turtles' head.  There are two distinct species in the state, C. glabra (White) and C. oblique (pink or purple).  White turtle head is considered infrequent and the two subspecies of pink are either endangered or special concern.  They are both obligate wetland species which means they must live in a wetland habitat (but do well in urban soils because they are similar in nature to wetland soils). They belong to the snapdragon family or Scrophulariaceae which includes other plants such as beard tongues, Indian paintbrush, false foxgloves, hedge hyssops, veronicas, and monkey flowers. Many members of this plant genus are associated with wetlands. Turtleheads are stiff plants without hairs (glabra) and have opposite, toothed, narrow leaves on a square stem.  They like to keep their roots moist to wet and grow in partial sun. The flowers occur in late summer and are irregular, two-lipped and grow in dense clusters.  In the garden this species does well at the edge of the woodland garden as long is it is heavily mulched to keep moisture in the soil.  This plant gets its name from Greek mythology. A nymph named Chelone had insulted the Gods and for her punishment she was turned into a turtle.  The species name of glabra is Latin for smooth.  This is also the primary host plant for the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly shown above.  This is a rare species in Kentucky and home owners attempt to attract it by planting turtle head, but usually to no avail because it naturally occurs in wetlands and is only found in a few rural locations around the state.  Furthermore, it only has one flight in late May to June and the larvae over winter in rolled up leaves on the ground and they have a very high mortality rate because they often fall off the tips of the leaves of the host plant.  Hence you need to beware when looking at native plant nurseries that indicate this is an attractive species for butterflies, because most do not nectar on the plant and the Baltimore checkerspot is the primary species that uses it for a host plant. This species is primarily pollinated by nectar seeking bumblebees.  It is primarily deer resistant and has no serious insect pests or diseases.

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