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FutureStarrRattlesnake master height
Although the aggregation of many small flowers in dense, hemispherical heads makes rattlesnake master look like a thistle or other member of Compositae, it is unrelated to those plants. Instead, rattlesnake master is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae). Break or crush a leaf, and the aroma will give it away. Rattlesnake master contains many of the same oils and other secondary compounds as parsley, carrot, and parsnip. The reproductive parts of rattlesnake master also indicate its relationship with carrots, particularly the paired schizocarp fruit.
However, another use of rattlesnake master is now recognized: this distinctive plant is gaining popularity as an ornamental. It grows and flowers in most garden soils, provided it receives some sun during the middle of the day. In the garden, however, this wildflower benefits from some competition, especially from native grasses. Otherwise plants may grow very tall (over 5 feet) and the stems often fall over.One specialized insect, the rattlesnake master stem-borer (Papaipema eryngii) is dependent of the rattlesnake master to complete its life-cycle; this moth’s caterpillars burrow in the stems and roots of this plant. The surviving populations of this moth are now restricted to prairie remnants that support large populations of rattlesnake master. The moth’s natural range is limited to the central United States.
Another dependent insect is the larva of a seed-eating moth (Coleotechnites eryngiella) that burrows through the flowerheads, eating seeds as it grows. Caterpillars of the black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) occasionally feed on the leaves, but the caterpillars prefer other members of the carrot family (both native and introduced). In our native prairies, rattlesnake master is a characteristic flowering plant that contributes greatly to insect diversity. Conditions Comments: Rattlesnake master can be an aggressive self-seeder. Remove seed heads to keep the plant in check. Scattered along the stiff, upright stem of this unusual perennial are tough, blue-green, yucca-like, parallel-veined leaves. Smooth, rigid stem bearing thistle-like flower heads made up of small greenish-white florets. The individual, greenish-white flowers cluster into unique, globular heads. Their spiny leaves make walking through clumps of these plants difficult. (Source: www.wildflower.org)