Prenanthes alba (White Rattlesnake-root)

Plant Info
Also known as: White Lettuce, Lion's-foot
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:biennial, perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich woods, thickets
Bloom season:August - September
Plant height:1 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
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: 7+petals Flower shape: bell Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Flowers hang down on branching racemes that arise from the leaf axils in the upper half of the plant. Individual flowers are about ½ across with 8 to 14 rays (petals) that have small notches at the tip. The styles are longer than the rays and have divided, curved tips; stamens are hidden inside the tube. There are 2 layers of bracts. The outer bracts are short and green. There are 7 or 8 dull pink to purplish inner bracts forming a tube about ½ inch long. Bracts are hairless except for minute hairs around the edges. When fully open the flower is bell-shaped.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are highly variable in shape, largest at the base of the plant and becoming smaller as they ascend the stem. Near the base of the plant they are up to 8 inches long and 10 inches wide and often lobed in 3 to 5 parts. As they ascend the stem the shape usually becomes more triangular, diamond shaped, or oval. All leaves are smooth textured, mostly irregularly toothed and have stalks shorter than the leaf blade. Attachment is alternate. Stems are erect, smooth, unbranched except in the flowers, and often purplish or purple spotted.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry seed with a tuft of cinnamon or rusty colored hair to carry it off in the wind.


White Rattlesnake-root is one of the few flowering plants seen in the woods towards the end of summer. It can also be found in smaller forms, typically with smaller, less variable leaves, in rock outcrops and on the rocky shore of Lake Superior. The flower shape is similar to other Prenanthes species, but P. alba is distinguished by its branching clusters of dangling white to pinkish flowers with hairless, purplish bracts, smooth stem and (typically) variable leaf shapes. In some references, P. alba is known by synonym Nabalus albus.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County, and Crosby Manitou State Park, Lake County.


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

Posted by: Maureen C - SE Winona County
on: 2009-08-30 06:58:47

Mississippi River mile 711, on edge of friend's property. There are three plants that I have discovered.

Posted by: Mark - Oakdale Nature Preserve, Oakdale MN
on: 2010-09-18 20:09:01

A single plant along a narrow trail through heavy buckthorn, blooming Sepetember 18th, 2010.

Posted by: Pat - Cass co.
on: 2012-08-11 23:36:29

Seen plants in wooded area along the Crow Wing River. Plant is quite nice when in flower.

Posted by: Kathy - northern waseca county on the north shore of Reeds Lake
on: 2012-08-22 21:33:01

I have watched two plants grow from early spring onward and am happy to conclusively identify them.

Posted by: Brett W - Otsego
on: 2014-08-31 18:01:09

Saw for the first time yesterday in UNCAS Dunes SNA.

Posted by: Susan A - Duluth - Woodland Avenue
on: 2015-08-01 14:00:16

A beautiful specimen can be found along Woodland Avenue (by the University) in a wooded area along the sidewalk. This is a beautiful plant. It has taken me over a month to identify it, but now that it is starting to flower, my quest to identify the plant has become easier.

Posted by: Meg D - Mendota Heights MN
on: 2015-09-23 21:40:37

I bought this plant two years ago from Mississippi Coop in their native plants section! It came up this summer in my north facing shady garden and is nearly 4 ft. tall with tons of flowers on it. I just identified what it is in Northland Wild Flowers by Moyle and Moyle.

Posted by: Steve - Itasca County
on: 2016-08-12 11:41:47

Found several plants along Little Otter road.Have been watching the plant all summer waiting for the blossoms to identify

Posted by: Anne - Knife River
on: 2016-08-19 13:12:08

I was researching Rattlesnake Root because it just popped up in my wildflower garden. I was thinking it might be invasive so was checking on line and this site came up. Happy to be here. And now happy to know I have a desirable beautiful new blooming plant. The leaves are so interesting; huge and distinctive! i identified it using the book What's Doing the Blooming by Clayton and Michelle Oslund, author and photographer couple who live in Duluth. Thank you for this great web site. Will be using it a lot now.

Posted by: Micki - Aitkin county, McGregor
on: 2016-09-02 20:26:08

Two plants in my short and restoration

Posted by: Nancy - Clearwater Lake, Bay Lake Township, Crow Wing County
on: 2016-09-05 16:28:31

It is flowering now, in September. So glad to know it is a desirable plant. I see it on the edge if the woods.

Posted by: meli - Olmsted County
on: 2017-08-24 10:11:08

Found one in our yard/woods today--what a joy! Twice in 20 years I've seen one along the Root River Trail, but this is the first one here.

Posted by: Kenny h - Shooting Star Scenic By way West of LeRoy
on: 2017-08-31 14:01:04

Found several plants...apx area about 50 ft. diameter...just starting to flower out...orchid area...prairie remnant...just love early fall...they are competing with small aspens...sure hope Mn Dot takes care of those aspens.

Posted by: Sandi - Aitkin
on: 2017-09-12 08:29:54

Found one plant flowering on edge of small woods near lake. I could not identify until this website. This is a great website that I will use from now on when a flower has me stumped.

Posted by: Susan Keller - Itasca County, County Road 19 between Moose and Deer Lake
on: 2018-09-02 20:32:10

Full of pretty blossoms on Sept. 1, 2018. I've been walking this road for 28 years and just noticed them blooming. Very pretty.

Posted by: Carol Fries - Duluth
on: 2020-08-07 16:21:04

Found one plant in flower along Lester river trail while hiking in Lester river park on August 7 2020.

Posted by: Lynn Corrie - Babbitt, MN
on: 2020-08-31 07:47:31

Along Plantation Road close to Birch Lake on our cabin road.

Posted by: Renae Morris - Crosby Farm Regional Park
on: 2020-09-26 12:53:08

I found a White Rattlesnake Root near the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities metro area. I identified it using the Eloise Butler plant guide at:

Posted by: edwin butenhoff - Minnesota City
on: 2021-03-22 10:38:33

on 3/20/21 a small white flower (1/2 " in dia. 5 petals no leaves showing) was blooming in wild flower garden.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-03-25 09:47:05

Edwin, it is unlikely that small white flower you saw in March belonged to white rattlesnake-root, which doesn't bloom until late summer.

Posted by: Ella Jensen - MCGREGOR
on: 2021-05-19 16:31:29

These plants are growing on my property near Big Sandy Lake. They are multiplying, but slowly.

Posted by: Nancy Hassett - 10 miles N of hwy 169 on Scenic 7, Itasca County
on: 2022-09-06 19:05:43

In six years, this is the first time I've seen this plant. I discovered it in a rocky area with lots of leafy matter, about 40 feet from our lake home at the top of a 25 foot rise from Lawrence Lake.

Posted by: James W Luedtke - Cascade State Park , Cook County
on: 2023-08-16 16:00:19

Blooming on August 16

Posted by: Kevin bovee - Knife river, lake county
on: 2023-08-31 19:55:03

Saw a plant in bloom august 24, 2023

Posted by: Gabriella Hauser - Mountain iron Minnesota
on: 2023-09-03 18:49:07

I found this plant growing on the powerline of a friends house in mountain iron Minnesota.

Posted by: Janis Bartlett - South Minneapolis Howe neighborhood
on: 2024-07-03 14:52:22

2 plants popped up in my vegetable garden. I'm going to have to pull them out.

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