Chelone glabra (White Turtlehead)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; wet meadows, along shores, wetlands
Bloom season:August - September
Plant height:2 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
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 Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Flowers are in a densely packed spike at the top of the main stem and smaller spikes on stems arising from leaf axils in the upper part of the plant. Individual flowers are 1 to 1½ inches long, tubular with a 2-lobed hood-like upper lip and a 3-lobed lower lip; the middle lower lobe is hairy. Flower color is creamy white, sometimes tinged pink. Flowers bloom from the bottom of the spike up.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are up to 8 inches long and 1½ inches wide, hairless, tapering to a sharp point at the tip, and little or no leaf stem. Edges are sharply toothed. Attachment is opposite with a pair of leaves at right angles to the pair below it. The main stem is hairless and 4-sided.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is an oval capsule about ½ inch long containing flat brown seeds.


The unusual flowers make this an easy plant to ID. Many references state that White Turtlehead only grows up to about 3 feet tall, but several plants at Battle Creek are easily 4 feet. The DNR also lists a pink-flowered species (C. obliqua) as native to Minnesota. Minnesota is on the far western edge of White Turtlehead's range. Like a number of other species formerly in the Scrophulariaceae (Figwort) family, Chelone has been reassigned to Plantaginaceae (Plantain).

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Battle Creek Regional Park, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Aitkin counties.


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

Posted by: Jennifer - Angle Inlet, MN in Lake of the Woods County
on: 2010-08-20 15:27:05

Found 8-10 plants in partly shady semi-wet ditch, flowering August 19-20, 2010. These plants were only about 6-8" tall.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-08-23 08:29:28

I wondered if such short plants really were turtlehead, but the photos you sent showed they are. It would be interesting to see if they grew taller next year.

Posted by: Pat - Pillager
on: 2012-02-15 14:28:16

Found one plant growing out in a field just north of Pillager. Will try to collect seeds from it.

Posted by: Margaret - Fridley
on: 2015-08-16 22:35:04

We planted this 4 yr ago in our wildower garden. It gets watered & fertilized. It is now at least 6 ft tall.

Posted by: Jane - Tofte, Cook county, mn
on: 2016-08-22 18:15:55

Growing in the ditches

Posted by: Tim - Brooklyn Park, Hennepin County
on: 2016-09-05 22:29:30

A few were blooming Labor Day along boardwalk on north side of Jenson Lake in Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Dakota County.

Posted by: Caroline - Lake Shore
on: 2017-08-19 21:25:48

Seen in Fritz Loven Park. One lone flower.

Posted by: Sarah - Rice Lake National Wildlife Area
on: 2017-08-20 21:14:13

Plentiful, along the Auto Tour Route

Posted by: Kenny h - Cedar River Austin
on: 2017-09-08 11:13:20

First time find for me...plant was close to 4 feet...cow pasture fenceline...most of the plants looked like they barely survived county ditch spraying...really nice, wet county road ditch NEW bridge...county road 28...South of Austin.

Posted by: Rebecca - Lutsen
on: 2017-09-09 14:12:48

First time sighting near ditch

Posted by: Karen Harmon - Hermantown
on: 2018-08-07 15:03:49

Outside Duluth. Found in a moist ditch along a roadside. About 18" tall. Only the creamy white.

Posted by: Chelsea - Grand Portage State Park & Judge C. R. Magney State Park
on: 2018-08-14 21:18:11

There was a single plant with two flowers in a sort of depression not far from the Middle Falls at Grand Portage S.P. I also saw a couple of plants at Judge C.R. Magney S.P. near the base of the wa l Jing bridge.

Posted by: SereneABrahams - Lebanon Hills park-Jensen lake trail
on: 2018-08-29 11:34:28

Saw a lot of these along the boardwalk/lakeshore of the Jensen Lake trail.

Posted by: Deborah Schmidt - Rochester
on: 2019-08-27 17:41:28

This beautiful native came up in my flower garden. Blooming in August.

Posted by: Nancy Linden - Mille Lacs County
on: 2019-09-06 08:23:04

A nice stand of plants in the ditch along a county road near Milaca. Plants are at the tail end of bloom with just a couple flowers left at the ends of the stalks.

Posted by: Laurie Olesen - Orono Lake
on: 2019-09-07 08:05:00

Found this plant along the shore and on a couple of islands in the lake. About 4 feet tall.

Posted by: Diana Moore - Caribou Falls Trail north of Tetegouche
on: 2019-09-19 22:35:04

Only one plant with only one flower but totally looked like the turtlehead blossom with opposite leaves.

Posted by: Kathy & Doug Wood - Stearns county north of Sartel in our woods along the Missis
on: 2020-02-13 03:04:30

I saw one of these on our property s few years ago... since then we had a blowdown and it disappeared.

Posted by: Mary - Mankato
on: 2020-07-07 13:46:35

Have always had these in woodland edge of our ravine/city proper - have always wondered, & about to pull them out; til this week looks like they'll bloom! Having plat ID really helps.

Posted by: Susan Oswood - Eastern Carlton County
on: 2021-08-02 11:57:05

Two plants in a roadside ditch.

Posted by: Jerold Ibberson - Mower County, Hormel Nature Center
on: 2021-09-09 07:49:42

Found it right next to the trail in the wetter section of the woods. Documented on inaturalist.

Posted by: Sherman - Off Norton Rd in Rural Duluth
on: 2022-07-10 23:26:41

One occasion years ago while driving, I took a side road off Norton Rd in Duluth to explore a small open area on the right side of Thurber Rd. I didn't see any creek but I see now that's where an East branch trickle of Chester Creek is shown on the map. The area looked slightly marshy. While walking through the 3 ft tall weeds, I saw about 4 of these impressive white flowered Turtlehead plants. I didn't know what they were, but identified them later with one wildflower paperback or another.

Posted by: Patricia Aceves - Wright County Cokato
on: 2023-05-14 11:14:48

Found a small white turtlehead plant growing in a weedy section of goldenrods. This spring it appears to be spreading as I've found 4 separate shoots coming up!

Posted by: luciearl - Lake Shore
on: 2023-08-14 15:15:52

I found one on the shore of Lake Margaret last week. A few in the ditch last year in Fairview Twp.

Posted by: AMRose - NW Angle Inlet - Lake of the Woods
on: 2023-08-20 14:24:07

Next to cabin at Prothero's Post never seen before thanks to this site I could identify it.

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