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White turtlehead

Chelone glabra

Chelone glabra

Regular price $6.48 USD
Regular price Sale price $6.48 USD
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Sun/shade: Full sun

Soil moisture: Medium to wet

Height: 3-4'

Spread: 1'

Flowering period: September

White turtlehead’s sleek, pearly blooms are an elegant feature of the late summer garden, but a bit of a conundrum for pollinators. With each flower’s corolla shut like the mouth of an unsociable turtle, how is a bee to access the floral rewards? “With muscle!” says the bumble bee. Indeed, bumble bees are the plant’s primary pollinators and one of the few visitors strong enough to force their way into the flowers. Once inside, the bee’s efforts prove to be well worth it, and a large supply of nectar greets the determined insect. Blooming primarily in August and September, the flowers are well-timed to feed the bees as they search for mates, and also to give extra calories to next year’s queens as they bulk up prior to hibernating.

Native to NE Ohio wetlands, river banks, and pond margins, white turtlehead grows best in wet or consistently moist soils under full to partial sunlight. In the garden, the plant does well in soils of average moisture if the soils are high in organic matter, such as soils enriched with leaf mulch. During summer dry spells, white turtlehead may need occasional watering. Due to an ability to tolerate brief periods of standing water, white turtlehead is a great choice for rain gardens, ditches, and other wet places. The plant commonly attains a height of 4’, but cutting it back in spring will cause it to be shorter at maturity. White turtlehead does a good job of staying upright and generally doesn’t need to be staked. Plant with other late summer bloomers such as hollow Joe Pye, ironweed, and wrinkleleaf goldenrod for a colorful show.

Photos by Julie Slater.

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