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Historically classified as being in the figwort (Scrophulariaceae) family, DNA research in recent years has led white turtlehead to be reassigned to Plantaginaceae, the plantain family. While this may sound odd, the plantain family does not actually include the plantain that we cook, and instead includes species such as foxgloves and snaWhite turtlehead produces clusters of white, sometimes pink or purple-tinged, flowers, which are often compared to snapdragons. This plant’s genus name comes from the Greek word for tortoise (chelone), referencing the flowers’ similar shape to tortoise or turtle heads. Flowers appear at the end of summer, making white turtlehead a great option for extending flowering in a garden or pond.
Turtlehead is a clump-forming perennial plant that blooms in fall with hooded flowers that look similar to snapdragon blooms. The flower gets its unique name from its resemblance to a turtle's beak, but the genius name dates back to ancient Greece mythology and the nymph named Chelone. As the story goes, Chelone elected not to attend the marriage of Zeus and Hera, so she and her house were tossed into a river, where she transformed into a tortoise who carried her house on her back. Open any gardening magazine or horticultural journal and you’ll find much attention devoted to the merits of drought and heat-tolerant plants in the ornamental landscape. That makes sense in view of our past few years’ warmer than normal, dry summers.
But what if you don’t have a hot, dry, sunny site? Some gardeners have shady conditions coupled with damp or even soggy soil. For them, the challenge lies in identifying plants that like such growing conditions. Chelone is an ideal choice forIf you’re not familiar with Chelone, it’s pronounced kee-LO-nee, which rhymes with baloney. The name is derived from the Greek word for tortoise. The common name for this plant, turtlehead, is inspired by the quirky-looking tubular, two-lipped shape of the flowers. They call to mind an animal’s gaping mouth. The shape is also reminiscent of snapdragon blossoms, which is not surprising since the two plants are related. Besides their resemblance to a turtle’s head, Chelone flowers have a unique botanical feature — a sterile stamen in addition to four fertile ones. The sterile stamen is useful in helping to identify the various Chelone species. For example, it is green in C. glabra, white in C. obliqua, and rose-tipped in C. lyonii. (Source:piedmontmastergardeners.org)