Rattlesnake Plantain Flowers in the Summertime Woods of PA

Not too many flowers are found in Pennsylvania woods in the summer months of July and August. Most of the Spring flowers have now turned into berries and fruits. In a few days the elderberries should be near ready to harvest and the blackberries have been yummy this week!

One group that does flower in the heat of the summer is the Rattlesnake Plantains that flower in July and August. We are fortunate to have the most common species blooming in our woods called Downy Rattlesnake Plantain, Goodyera pubescens, a member of the Orchid family, Orchidaceae.

A single, fuzzy flower stalk tipped with a compact group of white flower buds rises up from a basal rosette of mottled leaves. The quarter-inch long flowers will open into the typical orchid-like irregular shape, having a large lower lip overshadowed by a group of fused petals.

Rattlesnake plantain, Goodyera pubescens.

Downy rattlesnake plantain flower spikes.

Leaves in a basal rosette are oval in shape. The strong silver-white midrib contrasts with the dark green leaves. Veins that cross the leaf and run the length of it are all silver-white giving the leaf a unique, variegated look. The name “rattlesnake plantain” comes from the suggestion of rattlesnake skin by the pattern on the leaves.

Downy rattlesnake plantain variegated leaves.

Flower spike appears fuzzy or woolly, thus the “downy” part of its name. A few scale-like bracts are seen on the flower stalk.

Scales on the flower stalk of downy rattlesnake plantain.

Downy rattlesnake plantain leaves and roots were used by Native Americans for a number of ailments, but its collection and medicinal use are discouraged today due to its rarity.

Mid-July Flowers Can Handle the Heat

It’s been real hot around here lately. The last couple days have been lettuce-bolting days and the nights have been sticky. Bringing in the morning air – that’s our mountain air conditioning – started at 72 degrees at the crack of dawn today. I hear a siesta coming after lunch…!

In and around the vegetable and flower gardens we have lots of flowers blooming:

  1. purple cone flowers*
  2. marigolds*
  3. yarrow*
  4. catnip*
  5. foxglove
  6. nasturium
  7. rudbeckia
  8. cosmos
  9. geraniums
  10. portulaca*
  11. fennel
  12. cilantro*
  13. petunias
  14. pansies
  15. impatiens
  16. spiderflowers*
  17. sunflowers*
  18. orange tiger lilies
  19. rose campion*
  20. hawkweed
  21. begonias
  22. comfrey
  23. thimbleweed
  24. bee balm
  25. goldenrod
  26. evening primrose
  27. poke
  28. touch-me-not
  29. asiatic day lily
  30. lopseed
  31. anise hyssop*
  32. oregano*
  33. zinnias
  34. lettuce*
  35. zucchini
  36. tomatoes
  37. peppers
  38. cucumbers
  39. ground cherries
  40. watermelons
  41. oxeye daisy
  42. fleabane
  43. dill*

Not too many wild herbs on my summer list, but there are a few we can visit in another post! Pictures to come!

*Marks the happy re-seeders! All we have to do is transplant them where we want the volunteers to grow, or put them in a recycled pot to give to a friend or neighbor.