Chelone glabra (White Turtlehead)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Chelone
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
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

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

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.

Notes:

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).

Please visit our sponsors

  • Wild Ones Twin Cities Chapter

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants

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.

Comments

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 area...by NEW bridge...county road 28...South of Austin.

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

First time sighting near ditch

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.