Index- plants in this Family
Scrophulariaceae / Figwort
Turtlehead (Chelone )
Turtlehead is also known as Balmony, Snake Head, Turtlebloom and several other common names variously applied to the four species.

Plant Type: This is a herbaceous plant, it is a perennial which can reach 150cm in height (60inches). Most species usually much shorter.
Leaves: The leaf arrangement is opposite. Each leaf is toothed, often shiny. In C. cuthbertii the leaf base is rounded, sessile. C. glarba has narrow, tapering leaves that may be petioled or not. C. lyonii has rounded bases with petioles. C. obliqua has tapering bases with petioles.
Flowers: The flowers are irregular in shape . They are pink sometimes white. Blooms first appear in late summer and continue into mid fall. The flower looks very like a turtle's head with partly open mouth. The lower lip is bearded.
Habitat: Wet areas, bogs swamps, stream sides and moist woods.
Range: From Minnesota to Florida in very scattered locations. Often escaped from flower gardens.

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© Daniel Reed
Chelone lyonii and the general leaf shape of each taxa.

Chelone (rhymes with "baloney") was a nymph in Greek mythology who insulted the gods by ridiculing or not attending (versions vary) the marriage of Zeus to Hera. The gods punished her by turning her into a turtle.

Chelone is never a common species especially in our area. The leaves are eaten by many caterpillars so are often ragged.

Cuthbert's Turtlehead (Chelone cuthbertii) is found only in bogs and wet meadows of in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. It has purple flowers with yellow beards.

White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) has white flowers sometimes with some pink or green. It is found from Newfoundland to as far south as Georgia and Alabama.

Red Turtlehead (Chelone obliqua) is found from Minnesota to Florida generally in lowlands, it has pink to nearly red flowers with a white or yellow beard.

Pink Turtlehead (Chelone lyonii) is a southern species found in mountainous areas of Tennessee, North Carolina and just into South Carolina.

Medical Uses: Chelone glabra, often referred to as "Balmony" is the species commonly mentioned as medically active. The other taxon are likely so uncommon as to not have been considered. The Cherokee used the plant to improve appetite, for fevers and worms and to treat sores. A tea from the flowers was used as a gentle laxative. Northern tribes used the plant similarly as have herbalist. In addition there are references to its use for jaundice and to prevent pregnancy. (Hamel/Chiltoskey) (Foster & Duke) (Erichsen-Brown) (Grieve)

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Chelone obliqua

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More Info:  
The Search below may provide more information about this species. Some of URLs may have been used as a source for this page not otherwise cited. Most of the information not cited comes from multiple sources that can be found in the Books page. The USDA plant links are provided by: USDA, NRCS 1999. The PLANTS database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. You can check species names at ITIS Advanced Search to see if they meet the current ITIS taxonomic criteria.

By: Newcomb, Lawrence and Illustrated by Morrison, Gordon. 1977, Little, Brown and Company, ISBN:0-316-60442-9

One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.

Wildflo wers of Tennessee the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians
By: Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart and Thomas E. Hemmerly and David Duhl. , ISBN:1551054280

This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.

Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves



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