Chelone glabra

The shape of the flower is reminiscent of that of a turtle's head

Chelone glabra turtlehead

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

This native perennial species is a member of the snapdragon or figwort family. The flowers are swollen and have 5 petals forming 2 lips and grow in a tight cluster at the tip of the smooth 4-sided stem. Each flower is about one inch long. The shape of the flower does suggest the head of a turtle, as the upper and notched lip arches over the 3-lobed lower lip. The lower lip is bearded with hairs at the throat. When a bee struggles to enter the tubular corolla it looks like a turtle trying to eat a bee. The flowers are generally white, but sometimes tinged in magenta or pink, especially as they age. They can be 1 to 1.5 inches long. The flower spike blooms from bottom to top.

The leaves are light green, opposite, narrow, toothed and pointed. They occur in pairs. The leaves grow 3-6 inches long. The plant grows 1-3 feet tall and is found in wet ground, often along stream banks or in thickets. The stem is stout, smooth and erect and has 4 sides. It is found throughout the eastern half of North America and every Pennsylvania County. It does well in flower gardens.

In the past the turtlehead plant has been used to create a tonic used to treat digestive disorders. It is sometimes called snakehead, turtle bloom, fish mouth, or shellflower. The blooming period is July to October.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Grows in wet grounds, banks of streams & wetlands. 

Present in all counties of the state.

Range: Eastern part of North America.

Wetland codes

Flowers July to September.

Leaves  simple, opposite, toothed

S-rank:  No rank
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)

Chelone glabra turtlehead

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA
Chelone glabra gallery
Plant Life-Form
perennial forb
Common Names