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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Chelone glabra L.

Scrophulariaceae (Snapdragon Family)

Common Name:



Chelone (rhymes with "baloney") is a perennial native herb with a thickened rootstock. It's found in fens and on stream banks, in wet meadows and woods in alkaline soil.  It grows to 1 m tall usually unbranched as a single stem.

Leaves are simple, opposite, and sharply toothed.  Leaves are narrowly lance-shaped, up to 15 cm long and usually about 10 times as long as wide.

White flowers are in a tight terminal cluster, each 2 to 3 cm long. The 5 petals are fused into two lips, the upper lip with two lobes arching over the lower lip with three, and resembling a turtle's head.  They bloom through August and September.

Turtlehead is the preferred larval food for the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly.

  • Origin of the name: Chelone, Gr., a tortoise; glabra:  L., smooth, without hairs
  • Range:  Newfoundland to MN, s. to GA, AL
  • WI Range:  Statewide
  • Common associates: Marsh milkweed, Grass of Parnassus, Boneset
  • Wetland Indicator Status: OBL
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 8 (S&W), C = 7 (MI)
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