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Chelone glabra (White turtlehead)
Cressler, Alan

Chelone glabra

Chelone glabra L.

White Turtlehead

Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)

Synonym(s): Chelone chlorantha, Chelone glabra var. chlorantha, Chelone glabra var. dilatata, Chelone glabra var. elatior, Chelone glabra var. elongata, Chelone glabra var. linifolia, Chelone glabra var. ochroleuca, Chelone glabra var. typica, Chelone montana

USDA Symbol: CHGL2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

This smooth plant has tight terminal clusters of white (often lavender-tinged) tubular, 2-lipped flowers resembling turtle heads. White turtlehead, a robust perennial, usually grows 1-4 ft. tall. Its erect stems end in spikes of white to pinkish flowers, the shape of which suggests a turtle head. The leaves are elongate and arranged opposite each other along the stem.

The distinctive shape of this flower is reflected in the genus name, derived from the Greek chelone ("a tortoise").


From the Image Gallery

95 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 6 feet tall, often much shorter.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Red , Pink , Purple
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov
Bloom Notes: All white to white in tube and distally greenish white, pink, red or purplish.


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Nf. to MN, s. to GA & n.e. AR
Native Habitat: Brushy marshes; stream banks; wet ditches; low meadows; woodlands

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Light, rich, wet to moist soils.


Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Butterflies , Hummingbirds
Larval Host: Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton).

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

(Euphydryas phaeton)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Plant seeds outside in fall or moist-chill and plant in spring. Seedlings germinate after one year and flower after two. Roots can be divided in early spring or late fall with the plant is dormant. Space divisions 18 in. apart. Make stem cuttings in
Seed Collection: The papery capsule turns darker shades of brown when the seeds approach maturity. The seeds are usually ready for harvest at or near the first frost. Air-dry the capsules, separate the seeds and store in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Seed Treatment: Moist-chill stored seeds six weeks prior to sowing.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Native wildflowers for Northern Indiana
May 08, 2007
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Saturday April 21. What a beautiful place. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I was wondering how I could find out w...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College, The - Valhalla, NY
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Chelone glabra in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Chelone glabra in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Chelone glabra


Record Modified: 2022-12-06
Research By: TWC Staff

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