An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide –

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain Flowering

8-20-13 downy rattlesnake plantain 095Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) is an evergreen plant (each leaf lives for about four years) belonging to the Orchid family. It has broad, rounded leaves (like plantain) that bear a design somewhat reminiscent of snake skin. For the latter reason, it was used by Native Americans to treat snakebites. Botanists think it must have been used on bites from non-poisonous snakes, for medicinally it does not cure a venomous snake bite. This is the most common species of rattlesnake-plantain in New England, and can be identified easily by the broad central stripe down the middle of each leaf. At this time of year its tall flower stalk is bedecked with tiny, delicate, white orchids, each the size of a baby finger nail, which are well worth examining through a hand lens.

6 responses

  1. Roseanne Saalfield

    Mary is this remotely aggressive as common plaintain is? i wonder if this is available in the trade and i could find some for the naturalized garden we are creating as we clean out the invasives around here?

    great doings with the red tailed hawk who hangs around our property. we didnt see the nest or know where it was but baby has fledged and spends a ton of time whining around here, mom or dad flying high high up in the sky, watching. we started watching this drama about 10 days or two weeks ago. baby seemed to be moaning that he or she didnt have the competence to go it on her own. landed in the same tree as mom so clumsily she practically knocked mom off the branch. mom got good and angry at that. finally saw baby make a kill in our field, very near me in the veg garden, one evening at near dark. baby whined just as much with the kill in its claws as without, as if she didnt know what to do with dinner now that she had it. super fun.


    August 20, 2013 at 10:44 am

    • Hi Roseanne,
      It’s actually an orchid, not in the plantain family, so it’s not aggressive at all!

      August 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm

  2. viola

    Yikes, fabulous picture, especially the close up. I’ve attempted to photograph these little gems numerous times, but I’ve never come close to this success. And with the relatively long stem, it’s difficult to get both flower and leaf rosette in the same photo. Bravo, Mary!

    August 20, 2013 at 5:39 pm

  3. Hi Viola,
    It’s always nice when someone, usually another photographer, appreciates the relative difficulty (or not) of a shot. This was mostly in the shade, as well, so it was challenging picture to take. Thanks for your comments!

    August 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm

  4. emotionsandenlightenment

    To me, the flower cluster looks like a rattle snake’s rattle.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:46 am

    • That never occurred to me, but you’re right!

      August 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s