07.14.2019 The aforementioned Rattlesnake Plantains

To be precise, they are Downy Rattlesnake Plantains-Goodyera pubescens and are members of the Orchidaceae. They are just now beginning to flower.  Even though they are woodland plants they don’t need to take advantage of the vernal open canopy. The flowering can continue right through September and they bear resemblance to Ladies’ Tresses-Spiranthes sp. As with the Noble Princes’-pine, I’ve been obsessing over getting some shots with a few, at least, of the flowers opened so have also made several trips to North Quabbin. Yesterday was reasonably successful.

Again, I was fortunate that the sun was hitting the flower spike while the background was mostly in shadow…my corpulent self finished the job.

Why plantain?  I guess that’s because the flower spike and basal rosette resemble that plant.

And why, asked Linda, rattlesnake?  The leaves’ pattern and venation to some eyes resemble rattlesnake skin.

The leaves are evergreen and can be found in winter as with the Noble Prince’s-pine and related wintergreens. In case you didn’t notice in the first shot, the flowers are covered in fine hairs giving them a downy appearance. For uses, one site lists the following: “A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of pleurisy and snakebites. A tea made from the leaves is taken to improve the appetite, as a treatment for colds, kidney ailments, rheumatism and toothaches. Externally, a poultice of the wilted leaves is used to cool burns, treat skin ulcers and relieve rheumatic joints. An ooze from the plant (this probably means the sap or the juice of the bulb) has been used as eye drops to treat sore eyes.”

I would still like to get a close up of one opened flower so will continue my pursuit.  I did make a few yesterday but they are not publishable.


About Steve Gingold

I am a Nature Photographer with interests in all things related. Water, flowers, insects and fungi are my main interests but I am happy to photograph wildlife and landscapes and all other of Nature's subjects.
This entry was posted in Central Massachusetts, Closeup Photography, Flora, Nature Photography, wildflower portrait, Wildflowers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to 07.14.2019 The aforementioned Rattlesnake Plantains

  1. The first picture made me think that for once you used flash, which neither of us likes to do. Happily you found natural light to illuminate the flower spike for you. Good luck moving in on one open flower.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’ll never happen anywhere but here in my yard. I don’t take the flash with me and just use it for photographing insects here in the yard in broad daylight to soften the contrast. I suppose if I were to do the same elsewhere I might take it but I only shoot in high sun conditions here.


  2. Beautiful. And as always, thank you for the education.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bluebrightly says:

    Your work paid off! I know from personal experience how tiny those flowers are, and how difficult it can be to isolate any one plant enough to photograph the whole thing, and you excelled at both challenges. I wish I had your patience! I did get a nice photo of the leaves settled into a bed of moss, which I’ll post soon. It seems to me that they are sturdy enough plants that you should be able to get photos with the flowers more open, but I know conditions can change fast. Good luck!
    Our Rattlesnake plantain is Goodyera oblongifolia – it doesn’t have that fine down (which you showed SO beautifully!), and I guess you could say that compared to G. pubescens, the leaves are longer and narrower. The amount of pattern on them is extremely variable – do you find that?

    My book (Plants of Coastal British Columbia, Pojar & Mackinnon) says that some northwest coast indigenous children would rub the leaves together until a top layer separated from the bottom layer, then they could blow through the stem to make it like a balloon! It also adds that people living on the interior plateau used the leaves as a poultice, so I guess there were at least some similar or same uses for Goodyera across the country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The leaves in a bed of moss sounds fantastic. Looking forward to that, Lynn. The flowers open from bottom to top so I think I might find some better blooms this weekend. I am sure that there will still be some as most had only the bottom couple open, and not too fully at that, and many others weren’t open at all. What’s a fourth trip? 🙂 I am sure I’ll see other subjects to photograph but if I get the one I want then it will be a success. I’d say most are pretty similar although I am sure if I compared a lot of leaves with variance in mind there would be some. There is another rattlesnake plantain, the checkered rattlesnake plantain-Goodyera tesselata that I have yet to see, but both leaf patterns are different but similar at the same time.

      I think those uses are in keeping with my posted variety and possibly true for all Goodyeras.

      As far as patience it probably stems from my ease of entertainment. 🙂


      • bluebrightly says:

        That was funny, about your being easily entertained. Our Rattlesnake plantains have a tremendous variation in leaf patterning, with some having barely any at all and others having a striking design. Ah, the wonders of this world!
        Yes, what’s another trip, and you’ll find more things, most likely something unexpected, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It was a joke, of course, but I have developed a great deal of patience for a number of things. As an example, I am currently repairing a dining table pair of four-legged pedestal bases. Clamping it up would be a complicated endeavor so after gluing a leg in place I hold it for 5-10 minutes so the glue can set. Not sure what goes on in my head while I am doing it. Maybe some cartoon characters doing funny dances. 🙂
        Although I don’t see that kind of variation in pubescens, I do see it in lady’s slipper pouches for both figure and color. Painted trilliums too. Others I am sure but those are what comes to mind at the moment.
        Unexpected is just what I found today and will be here in the next few days.


    • I don’t know what’s going on with WP but it’s not letting me link within the text in my comment. Here’s the link to the other Goodyera…https://gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/species/goodyera/tesselata/


      • bluebrightly says:

        Interesting! Now I know that G. oblongifolia grows in Maine, too. G. tesselata sounds like a special one – only growing in older forests, not surviving fire, maybe orig. a hybrid….I won’t hold my breath about finding that one!!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. shoreacres says:

    You’re right about their resemblance to ladies’ tresses. When I first glimpsed the image, that’s what came to mind. Then I saw the leaves, and thought of — well, something. Ginger, maybe, or some of the houseplants my mother used to grow. I can see the resemblance to the rattlesnake skin, and all that fuzziness is obvious, but it still amuses me that an orchid would take its common name from three qualities that aren’t necessarily related to orchids.

    That said, it’s a beauty. Those four opened flowers in the first image are perfect. It’s interesting that they open from bottom to top, but now that I think of it, I believe our ladies’ tresses do, too. I’m not sure — I’ll have to check. Now that I’m back online, following rabbits down holes is a lot easier!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am quite happy for you that your computer/service is restored. I’ve had a few blackouts, of the computer kind…none personal so far…and know how frustrating it can be when it occupies such a large part of our day to day existence. Obviously we can survive without but they have become an integral part of how we spend some of our time staying connected to all our virtual friends around the world.
      Several other flowers bloom from the bottom up, gladiolas come to mind among others.

      I find the flowers of this plant sort of on the cute side…they look like little bonnets. It is odd to think of these flowers with the rattlesnake moniker that denotes danger when what they have to offer is loveliness.

      Liked by 1 person

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