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Today “Elizabeth’s Wildflower Blog” is really “Elizabeth’s Native Plant Blog”, because although Chelone glabra is common and found almost everywhere in Maryland, I’ve never seen it in the wild. These photos are of a specimen in my garden.

Also known as white turtlehead, this plant is in the Plantaginaceae, or plantain family. Older sources and many on-line sources place it in the Scrophulariaceae, but that family was gutted by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group.

The plants stand two to three feet tall, often with a single central stem but sometimes with a branch or two. As you can see, pruning (by rabbits, darn them) seems to encourage branching. The flowers are borne on terminal spikes, and have two petals, the upper one forming a hood over the lower one, which sometimes has two or three faint lobes.

White turtlehead like wet soils in open woodlands, and ranges east of the Mississippi River from the upper South northwards into Canada; west of the Mississippi it’s found in parts of Missouri and Minnesota. It’s listed as exploitably vulnerable in New York.

Not only have I never seen this plant in the wild, I’ve also never seen a Baltimore checkerspot. I had hoped to, because white turtlehead is their host plant. Fortunately turtlehead also attracts bumblebees. They crawl all the way up into the flower and stay for a minute or more. You can’t even tell there’s a bee in a flower except for the shaking that happens as the bee does its thing.



Culver’s root
Veronicastrum virginicum
(formerly Scrophulariaceae)


I’m partial to tiny, subtle flowers, but it’s hard not to love a plant like this. Although the individual flowers are small, they’re crowded into dense spikes up to eight inches long. The spikes occur in whorls in the upper nodes, surrounding a towering central spike. The whole effect is spectacular, especially when you find a plant that’s as tall or taller than you are.



seen from a distance; notice the Baptisia australis growing to the left


I first saw Culver’s root two years ago, growing along a slope so steep I had to almost climb to get to it. Earlier this year I saw a few plants growing next to the blue false indigo I was obsessed with; later I reported that they’d been browsed by something. But a few days ago they had bounced back, tall spikes filled with buds.



a little closer


To my delight I spied a third patch on the peninsula I visited (post from July 3), and interestingly the plants were growing right next to a big stand of blue false indigo. Clearly they enjoy they same growing conditions: wet soils in full sunlight. Culver’s root would be lovely in the back of a rain garden, maybe alongside joe pye weed. It’s a hardy, adaptable plant that is available in the nursery trade.



a whorl of spikes and leaves at the uppermost node


Worldwide there are about a dozen species of Veronicastrum, but V. virginicum is the only one in North America. It’s found in the eastern half of the US and Canada, as far west the the easternmost portions of the Great Plains states. It’s threatened in Massachusetts and New York and endangered in Vermont. In Maryland in grows in the Piedmont and part of the Coastal Plain (and in Garret County).


Variations on a Theme: Monkeyflowers


Mimulus ringens (Allegheny monkeyflower)
Mimulus alatus (winged monkeyflower)

There are about 90 species of monkeyflowers in the US and Canada, but almost all of them are confined to the western part of the continent.  Five are found east of the Missiissippi, and of those, only two are known in Maryland.

Which one is pictured above?  That’s winged monkeyflower, but you can’t quite tell from the picture.  The flowers are almost identical, though in different parts of the country there can be marked color differences.


The Allegheny monkeyflower has sessile leaves (meaning the leaf base touches the stem), while the flowers are connected to the stem by a long pedicel.



Both species can grow up to 3 feet tall, and both have the same cultural requirements: wet or at least consistently moist soils, and some shade.  The sorry-looking specimen shown here was growing in a very interesting place (perhaps subject of a future blog post), in full sun.  All of the plants (there were only a few) were stunted.


Winged monkeyflower is the opposite of the other with respect to how the leaves and flowers connect to the stem. In this species, the flowers are sessile or almost sessile, while the leaves have longed winged petioles (and winged stems).

The winged monkeyflower has some conservation issues: special concern in Connecticut, threatened in Iowa, endangered in Massachusetts, probably extirpated in Michigan, and rare in New York.

20150724-20150724-_DSC0035nice, tall plants in part shade along the river


UPDATE: the genus Mimulus is now placed in the Phrymaceae

Flower of the Day: Allegheny Monkeyflower

Mimulus ringens; Scrophulariaceae (figwort family)


Sometimes I’m just not going to get a good picture. I found this plant on two occasions. Both times, it was growing right at the edge of the canal, about ten feet away down a steep, poison-ivy covered bank. I’ll do a lot for a good picture, but I have limits.

There are three monkeyflowers found in this area; one of the others is called winged monkeyflower, a name that starts music from a certain seminal color motion picture start playing in my mind.  I found that one last summer in a marsh at the foot of Carderock but haven’t seen it this year.


This one is found all over the US and Canada except the mountain West.  It can grow up to three feet tall, and obviously likes wet soils and full sun.