Goodyera pubescens (Downy Rattlesnake Plantain)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; dry to average moisture, oak-birch-aspen or pine forests
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:9 to 14 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: none MW: FAC NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] A dense, cylindrical spike-like raceme of 28-52 tiny, densely pubescent (hairy) pearly white flowers. Individual flowers are about ¼ inch long, the lower lip is globular with a lip at the end of the sack. Lateral petals are white; sepals have a greenish surface.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are evergreen and mostly basal, dark green with fine silvery white reticulation and a thick stripe along each side of the midrib, oval to egg-shaped with a dull point, 1½ to 3½ inches long. There are also several scale-like leaves alternately attached on the densely pubescent (hairy) stem.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a drooping to ascending capsule about 1/3 inch long. The seed heads may persist to the following season.


A close up of this flower, it appears to be perpetually in song. I can hear its singing when I step into its garden. Of Minnesota's three Goodyera species, this has the most southeasterly range both in Minnesota and nationally, and it overlaps the other species' ranges in Cass and Aitkin Counties. It is the largest of the Rattlesnake Plantains in MN but is most easily distinguished by the fine white veining on the leaves and broad stripe along the midrib. The other 2 species have thick veining and/or no center stripe.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken along Hwy 64 in Hubbard County


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Neville - Wild River State Park
on: 2010-09-20 10:53:49

There is a small but vigorous population in a paper birch and red maple stand near the picnic pavilion.

Posted by: Jake - Nerstrand,MN Bigwoods state park
on: 2012-08-21 12:26:02

Nerstrand Big Woods state park.

Posted by: Karl - Big Trout Lake, Crow Wing Co. MN.
on: 2013-06-08 18:47:13

I found a small cluster of plants on the NW end of the lake.

Posted by: Anthony - Falls Creek SNA
on: 2014-07-15 03:50:38

Found on steep, north-facing slopes in Falls Creek SNA

Posted by: Bob - Camp Ajawah, Anoka County
on: 2016-07-17 16:03:47

Found a patch on the flats below the long line, just north of the path/road. No flowers.

Posted by: Peter Swenson - SAINT PAUL
on: 2018-06-24 22:25:32

I find this frequently throughout Paul Bunyan State Forest in Hubbard County. Generally it seems to grow in areas with little else in the way of undergrowth.

Posted by: Brett - Orrock
on: 2018-09-30 14:25:58

Found two plants today in Sherburne county :) Within planted White Pines about 60yrs old. In Sand Dunes SF.

Posted by: Susan premo - Wabasha, Kruger management unit,s
on: 2019-09-29 13:04:46

Between campsites on a trail near the restrooms.

Posted by: John Lawrey - Bay Lake Township
on: 2021-07-11 16:03:32

I found the leaves last November growing in a stand of oak trees. Checked on them over the Fourth and saw that it was progressing but not fully in bloom yet. Looking forward to seeing it.

Posted by: Gretchen Meier - St. Louis County
on: 2021-07-28 15:57:06

Found a population of 60 to 100 rosette along a hunter walking trail north of Island Lake. Specimen collected and will be accessioned at UMD Herbarium.

Posted by: Lindsay - Livonia Township/Sherburne County
on: 2022-06-13 13:43:24

I have 2 rosettes of this growing in the red pine woods to the north side of our house. For years I assumed it was some kind of crazy hardy fittonia like plant, until I posted a picture on snapchat and was given the link to this page. I'm amazed it's a native orchid, as it's never bloomed and has never really grown in the 8 years I've been amazed by the little veined plant in the woods hahaha. Could I move it somewhere it'll get better care? Or what can I do to encourage it to thrive in its current spot?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-06-13 14:28:09

Lindsay, if it is on your own land you can do whatever you want, but in any case I would advise against moving it. Orchids can have pretty specific habitat requirements where fungal associations play a big part, so moving it could actually be fatal. They can also be pretty persnickety, not blooming every year. Perhaps it is still storing energy before it decides to put on a show. Patience. :)

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