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A wonderful perennial for fall color, Chelone lyonii (Pink Turtlehead) is an upright, clump-forming perennial with abundant terminal spikes of fascinating, two-lipped, pink to rose-purple flowers from late summer into fall. The hooded flowers are shaped like turtle heads just emerging from the shell, hence the common name of 'Turtlehead'. They rise above a lustrous foliage of broadly, lance-shaped, dark green leaves that are arranged in pairs along the stiff, square stems and remains attractive during the growing season. This beauty is also low maintenance, disease and insect resistant, making this U.S. native a first-rate garden plant.
Chelone glabra, or white turtlehead, is the smallest of the species, topping out at about 2’ to 3’. It is widely distributed from Newfoundland to the north, Georgia to the south, and Mississippi to the west. The 1” long flowers are usually white or cream but may also be pale pink, pink-tinged, or green-tinged. Wildflower enthusiasts appreciate this plant because it attracts hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. In fact, C. glabra is the main larval host plant for the endangered Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly.Turtleheads are native wildflowers that adapt beautifully to garden conditions. In this species, plants form an upright, bushy mound of green foliage, bearing upright stems of large bright-pink hooded flowers beginning in late summer. Best in a moist or wet site, this also adapts well to average border conditions. Terrific at the waterside. Excellent for cutting. Showy and long lived. Attractive to butterflies. Plants are easily divided in spring.
The central stem terminates in a short spike of flowers. Each flower is 1–1ï¿½" in length; it has a corolla with a flattened tubular shape and a short calyx with 5 blunt teeth. The two-lipped corolla is pink to deep rosy pink; the upper lip has the shape of a broad hood, while the lower lip has 3 outer lobes. The central lobe of the lower lip is often elevated slightly above the 2 lateral lobes when the flower is fully open. Behind the lower lip of the corolla, there is a conspicuous patch of white or pale yellow hairs. The calyx is light green and glabrous; it has teeth that are broadly ovate or oval-ovate. Underneath the calyx of each flower, there are short appressed bracts that resemble the teeth of the calyx. The blooming period occurs from late summer to early fall and lasts about a month. There is no floral scent. Ovoid seed capsules develop after the corollas of the flowers turn brown and fall off. Each seed capsule is about ï¿½" long; it is initially light green and glabrous, but later turns brown and splits open to release the seeds. The root system is rhizomatous and vegetative colonies of plants occasionally form. (Source: www.illinoiswildflowers.info)