Goodyera pubescens

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: rattlesnake plantain 
Type: Orchid
Family: Orchidaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: White to greenish-white
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought

Culture

Easily grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Best with a sun-dappled part shade. Mulch helps maintain consistent soil moisture. Native to both moist and dry woods.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Goodyera pubescens, commonly known as downy rattlesnake plantain, is an evergreen herbaceous perennial in the orchid family that is native to dry to mesic woodlands, bluffs, wooded slopes, and wooded ravines from Quebec to Minnesota south to Oklahoma and Florida. Distinctive, ovate, blue-green leaves (to 3” long), each with a single white center stripe and a network of white veins and cross-veins, form an evergreen, almost ground-hugging basal rosette. A single, erect, leafless, downy/woolly flower stalk rises from the center of each rosette to 16-20” tall in summer. Tiny, white to greenish-white, hairy, rounded flowers (to 1/4” long) with sac-like lower lips bloom from July to mid-September in a dense, cylindrical terminal raceme located on the upper quarter of each flower stalk. Flowers are followed by fruits (small erect ovoid capsules).

The white leaf markings purportedly resemble the skin of some rattlesnakes, the leaf rosette purportedly resembles the leaf arrangement on some unrelated plantains (Plantago spp.), and the flower stalks in particular are covered with down, hence the common name of downy rattlesnake plantain.

The leaves were once used to make a tea which reportedly improved appetite and provided some relief for colds and kidney ailments.

Genus name honors British botanist John Goodyer (1592-1664).

Specific epithet from Latin means downy or hairy in regard to the downy hairs which are particularly evident on the flower stalk of this plant.

Problems

No significant insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Best for shady areas of native plant gardens. Woodland areas. Wildflower gardens.