An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide – maryholland505@gmail.com

Downy Rattlesnake-Plantain

If you look at the forest floor in coniferous woods you may well discover Downy Rattlesnake-Plantain (Goodyera pubescens ).  This evergreen rosette of broad, rounded leaves gets its name from the similarity of the shape of its leaves to those of plantain, a common lawn weed.  In fact, it is an orchid, not a plantain, and is the most common species of plantain in New England. It is distinguished from other species of rattlesnake-plantains by the bright silver markings on the leaves and the broad stripe down the center of the leaves.  Each leaf lasts for approximately four years.

6 responses

  1. Kathy Schillemat

    Thanks for that information. We have been finding this lovely plant in a number of places in the Nelson, NH, woodlands. My question is when does it bloom? We have seen it in spring, summer and early fall, but not evidence of a blossom.

    October 18, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    • I have found it flowering in late July and August…a late bloomer. It has one stalk with tiny white orchids spiraling the upper third of it. Very pretty! Wish I knew if I could add a photo to my reply, but I don’t think I can or I would send you one.

      October 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      • Kathy Schillemat

        Mary, you should have my email since it accompanies my comment, and I receive your posts via email. I would love to see a picture of the flowers.

        October 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm

  2. Anthony

    I am confused by this. You say that it is an orchid, not a plantain, but then go on to say it is the most common specie of plantain??

    October 18, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    • Sorry for the confusion! I was referring to “rattlesnake plantains” as opposed to the weed. There are four species I’m aware of — downy, dwarf, green-leaved and checkered rattlesnake plantain.

      October 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm

  3. When I first saw the picture, I thought it looked like one of our Australian orchids. Our terrestrial orchids die back every year.

    October 19, 2012 at 11:35 am

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