Chelone glabra  White Turtlehead Wildflower Seeds and Potted Plants

Easyliving Native Perennial Wildflowers Native Perennial Wild Flower Seed and Plants
for Home Landscaping and Prairie Restoration


  Bloom Period Color Height Inches Moisture Plant Spacing Lifespan
Sun to Light Shade August and September White 24 to 48 Inches Moist 8 to 24 Inches Perennial

usda hardiness zone 3 - 8  Butterflies host plant and butterfly Pollinators

Chelone glabra is a showy herbaceous native wildflower and Attracts Butterflies and Hummingbirds
Butterfly Larval Host plant for Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas phaeton

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Chelone glabra
white turtlehead

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Lobelia cardinalis
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Chelone glabra white turtlehead SEEDS are NOT available

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Easyliving Wildflowers
PO Box  522
Willow Springs,  MO.  65793
Phone 417-469-2611 

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Chelone glabra white turtlehead Flower Plant distribution map complements of USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1
  ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.


















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 Scrophulariaceae(Figwort Family)

Synonym(s): Chelone chlorantha, Chelone glabra var. chlorantha, Chelone glabra var. dilatata, Chelone glabra var. elatior, Chelone glabra var. elongata, Chelone glabra var. linifolia, Chelone glabra var. ochroleuca, Chelone glabra var. typica, Chelone montana

USDA Symbol:

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

This smooth plant has tight terminal clusters of white (often lavender-tinged) tubular, 2-lipped flowers resembling turtle heads. White turtlehead, a robust perennial, grows 1-4 ft. tall. Its erect stems end in spikes of white flowers, the shape of which suggests a turtle head. The leaves are elongate and arranged opposite eachother along the stem.

The distinctive shape of this flower is reflected in the genus name, derived from the Greek chelone (a tortoise).

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Size Class: 3-6 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Nf. to MN, s. to GA and n.e. AR
Native Habitat: Brushy marshes; stream banks; wet ditches; low meadows; woodlands

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Light, rich, wet to moist soils.


Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Butterflies , Hummingbirds
Larval Host: Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton).


Chelone glabra is a herbaceous plant found in wetlands and riparian forests of eastern North America with opposite, simple leaves, on stout, upright stems. The flowers are white, borne in late summer and early fall. It has been used as a method of birth control by Abenaki people.[

Its native range extends from Georgia to Newfoundland and Labrador and from Mississippi to Manitoba

It is the primary plant that the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly will lay its eggs on (although the butterfly to some extent will use a few other species).

C. glabra is also a foodplant for the sawflies Macrophya nigra (Norton) and Tenthredo grandis (Norton) (Hymenoptera: Tenthredinidae), (Stamp, 1984)

A flea beetle in the genus Dibolia (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) has also been shown to feed on C. glabra (Wilcox, 1979).

Use as indicator of deer browse in riparian forests

Chelone glabra is a popular browse plant for deer, although certain other plants such as Eurybia divaricata (white wood aster), Symphyotrichum prenanthoides (crooked-stem aster), and Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed) are even more preferred by deer. In measuring damage to plants as a way of finding out the level of deer browsing, it is more effective to use a collection of deer browse species rather than just one.[3]


White Turtlehead
Chelone glabra linifolia
Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae)

Description: This perennial plant is about 2-3' tall and unbranched or sparingly branched. The central stem is glabrous and either terete or 4-angled. Each pair of opposite leaves rotates 90 from the position of the pair of leaves immediately below. For var. linifolia of White Turtlehead, these leaves are less than " across and they are linear-lanceolate in shape. However, the typical variety of White Turtlehead has some leaves greater than " and they are lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate in shape. The leaves are hairless and finely serrated along their margins. At their bases, the leaves are sessile, or they have petioles that are less than " in length. The central stem terminates in a dense spike of white flowers about 3-6" in length, blooming from the bottom to the top.


Each flower is about 1" long, consisting of a 2-lipped white corolla, a green calyx with 5 oval teeth, a slender white style, and 5 hairy stamens. Four of these stamens have fertile anthers, while the remaining stamen is sterile and green. The tubular corolla is somewhat flattened at the mouth, where it is more wide than tall. The upper lip of the corolla functions as a protective hood, while the lower lip has 2-3 shallow lobes and functions as a landing pad for visiting insects. The lower interior of the corolla has abundant white hairs. At the base of the calyx, there are a few green bracts that resemble the sepals. The blooming period occurs from late summer to fall and lasts about 1month. There is no noticeable floral scent. Each flower is replaced by an ovoid seed capsule containing several seeds that are flattened and broadly winged; these seeds can be blown about by the wind and probably float on water. The root system consists of a taproot and rhizomes. Vegetative colonies may form as a result of these rhizomes.

Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, wet to moist conditions, and a fertile soil containing some organic matter. Temporary flooding is tolerated. This plant can be maintained in gardens if it is watered during dry spells.

Range and Habitat: The native White Turtlehead occurs occasionally in central and northern Illinois, but it is rare in the southern part of the state. The typical variety of this species is more abundant than var. linifolia. Habitats include open woodlands in floodplain areas, thickets in floodplain areas, wet prairies, sedge meadows, seeps, springs, marshes, and fens. These habitats can be either sandy or non-sandy. White Turtlehead is an indicator plant of fens, where the ground water ranges from slightly acid to alkaline, but it occurs in other high quality wetland habitats as well.

Faunal Associations: The flowers are pollinated by nectar-seeking bumblebees; sometimes they also attract the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. In the northern half of Illinois, White Turtlehead is the preferred host for caterpillars of the butterfly Euphydryas phaeton phaeton (Baltimore). This butterfly is fairly uncommon. Other insects that feed on the foliage of White Turtle include leaf-mining larvae of the flea beetle Diabolia chelones, larvae of the sawfly Tenthredo grandis, and larvae of the sawfly Macrophya nigra. The seeds are eaten by larvae of the fly Phytomyza chelonei and larvae of the polyphagous moth Endothenia hebesana, while larvae of Papaipema nepheleptena (Turtlehead Borer Moth) bore through the stems (Clark et al. 2004, Smith 2006, Eastman, 1995). The foliage is bitter and usually avoided by White-Tailed Deer and other mammalian herbivores.

Comments: The interesting flowers of this species resemble the head of a turtle, hence the common name. Because of these unique flowers, Chelone spp. (turtleheads) are easy to distinguish from other groups of plants. Among the turtleheads occurring in the Midwest, White Turtlehead is unique in having white flowers (although they are sometimes tinted light pink or pale purple). It also has more narrow leaves than other turtleheads, which is especially pronounced in var. linifolia, as illustrated in the photograph of the leaves. The other turtlehead species that occurs in Illinois, Chelone obliqua (Pink Turtlehead), has pink flowers and broader leaves with longer petioles (these petioles exceed " in length). This species is uncommon and usually occurs in damp wooded habitats.