Prenanthes alba (White Rattlesnake-root)

Plant Info
Also known as: White Lettuce, Lion's-foot
Genus:Prenanthes
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:biennial, perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich woods, thickets
Bloom season:August - September
Plant height:1 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
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.

Notes:

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.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Minnesota Native Plant Society

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land

More photos

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

Comments

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 12...one 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.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.



(required)




Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.