Eryngium yuccifolium (Rattlesnake Master)

Plant Info
Also known as: Button Eryngo, Button Snakeroot
Genus:Eryngium
Family:Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Status:
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:sun; moist to dry sandy, loamy soil; prairies, open woods
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:2 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Whitish green globe-like flowerheads, ½ to ¾ inch wide, are arrayed in an orbital cluster at the end of a tall, smooth stalk. Each flower head is composed of numerous small flowers with 5 white petals, notched at the tip, 2 long white styles, and 5 white stamens with greenish to brown tips. Surrounding each flower are prickly floral bracts. At the base of the flower head is a whorl of leafy bracts, lance-like and prickly. A plant has a few to many clusters from the leaf axils and on branching stems in the upper part of the plant.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are mostly basal, long and sword-like with parallel veins and tapering to a sharp point, up to 2½ feet long and only 1 inch wide with a few smaller leaves ascending the stem. Stem leaves are stiff, clasp the stem and typically wrap around it. Leaf surfaces are waxy, the edges either smooth or commonly with widely spaced, fine spiny teeth. Stems are hairless, blue-green, waxy, and ridged.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] The flower heads turn purplish in the fall and eventually dry to a dark brown. 

[photo of fruit] Seed is dark brown, 3-sided, just under 1/8 inch long, the layered remains of the floral bracts attached at the top on 2 sides with the third side smooth and flat.

Notes:

To any sense of observation, this one is a no-brainer as Rattlesnake Master is a unique plant—at first encounter it is startlingly different than most native plant forms. It also makes an excellent garden specimen as a durable perennial in most soil types with adequate sun. According to the DNR, while Rattlesnake Master does grow in a variety of habitats, in Minnesota—the northern edge of its natural range—it has limited itself to open prairies, which have all but disappeared. It was designated a Special Concern species in 1984.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Dodge county. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dodge county and a residential garden in Anoka county.

Comments

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

Posted by: Carrie - Victoria
on: 2011-07-17 14:23:10

I planted a few of these in my native garden a couple years ago. This year they are spectacular!

Posted by: Kay - Marshall
on: 2011-07-28 22:57:02

I planted two plants in my "rock garden" and I find they are most interesting! They really add to the other wild flowers I have in my garden and I enjoy them for the duration of the summer. They seem to thrive despite the fact they are right next to the street.

Posted by: Jim - Rochester Area
on: 2011-08-09 11:44:08

We planted 7-1/2 acres of prairie in the fall of 2008. Today we noticed a single Rattlesnake Master plant for the first time. It was not listed as a species we planted and not shown in the books we have, but found it quickly on your web site. Thanks, Jim

Posted by: Robin - New Hope
on: 2012-07-20 21:25:25

The flowers are just starting to open. There is several of these growing at Northwood Park in New Hope, MN. 7-20-12

Posted by: Brian - St. Peter
on: 2013-03-16 21:08:48

A great plant for cultivation - I now have two, and love looking at the carrot-that-looks-like-a-yucca when I'm outside.

There are some great natural stands of this in these areas: Osmundson Prairie SNA (near Kiester, almost on the Iowa border); Butternut Valley Prairie SNA (south of New Ulm, northwest of Lake Crystal); Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA (south of New Ulm); Des Moines Prairie SNA (near Windom). These are all near the westernmost distribution of this species, according to various sources.

There's also a smaller representation of it on Kasota Prairie SNA southeast of St. Peter (I've personally found only a couple of plants). It's listed on the DNR site as being the northernmost outpost of the species, but the more westerly ones that I've listed have lots more plants.

Posted by: Kay - Marshall
on: 2013-07-27 16:16:06

We have three large plants in our rock garden in our front yard right next to the street. The bees love them as well as an occasional hornet. They are about 3 1/2 feet tall now and have many blooms. I purchased two from a nursery and the third one is a self-starter.

Posted by: Paul - SAINT PAUL
on: 2014-07-17 17:07:59

Saw about eight of these 17 July 2014 at Afton State Park in its restored prairie.

Posted by: Keith - Iron Horse Prairie SNA
on: 2014-08-14 22:25:29

During my visit to Iron Horse Prairie SNA I photographed dozens of these interesting plants. This place is special and it was a privilege to "walk very carefully" there.

Posted by: Shelby - Oronoco Prairie SNA
on: 2014-08-26 13:13:19

Numerous of these, flowering in the flattish, open section of the SNA (between the pair of hillocks on the S edge of the SNA and the low wooded rise on the N). Beautiful!

Posted by: Paul - SAINT PAUL
on: 2014-10-16 17:17:01

Saw two of these today, October 16, on a west-facing hillside in Ottawa Bluffs preserve, just east of St. Peter.

Posted by: Chelsey - lindstrom
on: 2015-07-15 00:13:03

Just planted one in my native garden along with cardinal flower, wild bergamot, purple coneflowers, fragrant hyssop and thimbleweed. I also moved some enchanters nightshade in as its in a area I have to clean up.

Posted by: Patrick - Lake Elmo, Washington County
on: 2016-06-14 11:09:38

I have many of these in my 2 acre restoration. They are self propagating.

Posted by: luciearl - Lake Shore, MN
on: 2016-07-31 20:03:32

Wildflowers were the centerpieces at the GCOLA event last week. I'm ecstatic that one of my wildflowers was Rattlesnake Master. I planted it in sandy soil near the water. Hope it likes it there. I'll take special care since it is as State Special Concern.

Posted by: Bob B - Hastings
on: 2016-10-28 21:33:23

Rattlesnake master is a fairly common plant at Spring Lake Park Reserve in Hastings.

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