University of Maryland Extension: Plant of the Week
Chelone lyonii, Chelone glabra
Photo and text by Ellen Nibali
Terps fans should like this native plant that blooms during football season in the shape of a turtle’s head.
White turtlehead Chelone glabra is the primary host plant for the endangered Baltimore checkerspot butterfly, a black, gold and white beauty. The leaves provide food for the caterpillar stage.
A bit of a misnomer, white turtlehead may also be pink or purple. Chelone lyonii, common name pink turtlehead (pictured above) is true to its name however, with pink flowers protruding from stalks with handsome glossy leaves.
Turtleheads bloom from July well into fall. They are easy to grow in sun to part shade and moderate to well-moistened soil, though pink turtlehead has been known to put up with a surprising amount of drought.
Height is usually between 1 ½ to 3 feet, depending on growing conditions. They spread by rhizomes to make a nice patch.