(Chelone glabra) Figwort family

Flowers - White tinged with pink, or all white, about 1 in. long,

growing in a dense terminal cluster. Calyx 5-parted, bracted at

base; corolla irregular, broadly tubular, 2-lipped; upper lip

arched, swollen, slightly notched; lower lip 3-lobed, spreading,

woolly within; 5 stamens, sterile, 4 in pairs, anther-bearing,

woolly; 1 pistil. Stem: 1 to 3 ft. high, erect, smooth, simple,

leafy. Leaves: Opposite, lance-shaped, saw-edged.

Preferred Habitat - Ditches, beside streams, swamps.

Flowering Season - July-September.

Distribution - Newfoundland to Florida, and half way across the


It requires something of a struggle for even so strong and

vigorous an insect as the bumblebee to gain admission to this

inhospitable-looking flower before maturity; and even he abandons

the attempt over and over again in its earliest stage before the

little heart-shaped anthers are prepared to dust him over. As

they mature, it opens slightly, but his weight alone is

insufficient to bend down the stiff, yet elastic, lower lip.

Energetic prying admits first his head, then he squeezes his body

through, brushing past the stamens as he finally disappears

inside. At the moment when he is forcing his way in, causing the

lower lip to spring up and down, the eyeless turtle seems to chew

and chew until the most sedate beholder must smile at the

paradoxical show. Of course it is the bee that is feeding, though

the flower would seem to be masticating the bee with the keenest

relish The counterfeit tortoise soon disgorges its lively

mouthful, however, and away flies the bee, carrying pollen on his

velvety back to rub on the stigma of an older flower. After the

anthers have shed their pollen and become effete, the stigma

matures, and occupies their place. By this time the flower

presents a wider entrance, and as the moisture-loving plant keeps

the nectaries abundantly filled, what is to prevent insects too

small to come in contact with anthers and stigma in the roof from

pilfering to their heart's content? The woolly throat discourages

many, to be sure; but the turtle-head, like its cousins the

beard-tongues, has a sterile fifth stamen, whose greatest use is

to act as a drop-bar across the base of the flower. The

long-tongued bumblebee can get his drink over the bar, but

smaller, unwelcome visitors are literally barred out.

If bees are the preferred visitors of the turtle-head, why do we

find the Baltimore butterfly, that very beautiful, but freaky,

creature (Melitaea phaeton) hovering near? - that is, when we

find it at all; for where it is present, it swarms, and keeps

away from other localities altogether. On the under side of the

leaves we shall often see patches of its crimson eggs. Later the

caterpillars use the plant as their main, if not exclusive, food

store. They are the innocent culprits which nine times out of ten

mutilate the foliage.

SNAKE BERRY POISONFLOWER WOODY NIGHTSHADE SNEEZEWEED SWAMP SUNFLOWER facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail