Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) by Margo Khosravi

Rattlesnake PlantainMore common in warmer climates than in the north, this rare member of the orchid family might catch your eye, even when it’s not in bloom, because of its distinctive white veined leaves covered with fine white hairs.  The bluish green basal leaves sprout from a perennial rhizome, and the top of the 8″ to 16″ stem is covered with many pubescent yellowish white flowers. (July to Sept.)  It is found in dry woods.

It owes its common name, Rattlesnake Plantain, to three characteristics.  The first is the tendency of the stem to achieve a snake like form as it pushes up through the dense carpet of leaves that covers the floor of the forest habitat it likes to grow in.  The second characteristic is the rattlesnake pattern of the veining on the basal leaves, and the third is its value as a root tea to the American Indians to supposedly counteract the effects of snakebite.  The root tea was also used for pleurisy.  A leaf tea was administered with whiskey as a blood tonic, appetite stimulant, and cold remedy.  Steeped in milk, leaf poultices were used to treat skin irritations.  Possibly because of its medicinal value, and most certainly because people like to collect it for use in terrariums, it has become somewhat rare.  If you’re lucky enough to discover rattlesnake plantains in the wild, please don’t disturb them.  They might not survive out of their habitat because wild orchids aren’t easy to cultivate.  The plant also goes by the names Adder’s Violet and Netleaf Plantain.  

Cancer Root Early Summer 2008 Hemlock Overlook

This plant lacks chlorophyll and resembles a pine cone.  Habitats include upland woodlands, bluffs, wooded slopes and ravines, and usually in association with leaf liter and oak trees. Because it lacks chlorophyll the plant must obtain its nutrients from the host tree.  This plant spreads to new locations by dropping seed or from its seeds passing throuh the digestive tracts of certain animals.The photo was taken along the Horse Shoe Trail in the woods near Hemlock Overlook.

rrtrx0508 (3)