Chelone glabra

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: white turtlehead 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Plantaginaceae
Native Range: United States
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.50 feet
Bloom Time: August to October
Bloom Description: White with pink tinge
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Erosion, Wet Soil


Best grown in moist to wet, rich, humusy soils in part shade. Appreciates a good composted leaf mulch, particularly in sunny areas. Consider pinching back the stem ends in spring to reduce mature plant height, especially if growing plants in strongly shaded areas where they are more likely to need some support. In optimum environments, however, staking is usually not required. Slowly spreads by rhizomes.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Chelone glabra, commonly called turtlehead, is a stiffly erect, clump-forming, leafy-stemmed, Missouri native perennial which typically grows 2-3' tall and occurs in moist woods, swampy areas and along streams mostly in the southeastern part of the State. Hooded, snapdragon-like, two-lipped, white flowers with a tinge of pink appear in tight, spike-like terminal racemes from late summer into autumn. Flowers purportedly resemble turtle heads. Coarsely-toothed, lance-shaped, dark green leaves.

Genus name comes from the Greek word chelone meaning tortoise in reference to the turtlehead shape of the flowers.

Specific epithet means without hairs.


No serious insect or disease problems. Some susceptibility to mildew, particularly if soils are kept on the dry side and/or air circulation is poor. If grown in too much shade, plants may need some support.


Shade or woodland gardens. Bog gardens. Pond or water garden peripheries. Wildflower or native plant gardens. Borders as long as the soil moisture requirements can be met.