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CHELONE glabra

Image of Chelone glabra

Jesse Saylor

Family

Scrophulariaceae

Botanical Name

CHELONE glabra

Plant Common Name

Smooth Turtlehead

General Description

The two-lipped, pinkish white flowers of smooth turtlehead appear in spiky terminal clusters in mid to late summer. This long-stemmed perennial wildflower can be found in marshes, moist meadows and open forests along the eastern half of North America, from Georgia up to Newfoundland. Hardiness, tolerance to moisture and wild beauty make this a good garden flower for informal or naturalistic gardens.

The tall, upright stems of smooth turtlehead are lined with lance-shaped, opposite leaves of deep green. Plants spread via creeping rhizomes to form substantial clumps which are fully herbaceous, meaning they die back to the ground each year. Clusters of pinkish white or white flowers shaped like turtle's heads appear late in summer. These are pollinated by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and the foliage is the larval food source for the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas phaeton).

Smooth turtlehead thrives in sites with full to partial sun and moist to saturated, fertile ground. Plants tend to spread and may need to be divided every few years or so. This is a super selection for moist, shaded wildflower gardens or informal borders. One garden-worthy cultivated form is the tall, dark-leaved 'Black Ace.'

Characteristics

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 9

  • Plant Type

    Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    3'-4' / 0.9m - 1.2m

  • Width

    3'-4' / 0.9m - 1.2m

  • Bloom Time

    Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall

  • Native To

    Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, North-Central United States, Central United States, South-Central United States, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water, Ample Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Light Pink

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green, Yellow Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bog Garden, Mixed Border, Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Hummingbirds, Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes