Plant Identified: Rattlesnake Plantain

Rattlesnake-Plantain-leaves

The mysterious leaves of the rattlesnake plantain.

For many years, as we’ve walked the Row River Trail here in Cottage Grove, we have occasionally noticed these leaves growing along the edge of the trail. They are so distinctive and interesting looking that we’ve often wondered what they are. Unfortunately, it is hard to identify a plant unless you see it blooming.

Luckily for us, a hiking trip to Upper Trestle Creek Falls near Brice Creek finally helped us answer our question. We not only saw this plant in bloom, but we saw huge clusters of them in bloom!

A cluster of rattlesnake plantain in bloom.

A cluster of rattlesnake plantain in bloom.

While the scientific name might be a mouth-full —  Goodyera oblongifolia  — the common name is a tad more interesting. Early settlers named it the Rattlesnake Plantain because they thought the leaves resembled rattlesnake patterns and so they used it on snake bites. It is a native, evergreen orchid that grows in the shade of coniferous forests (like spots of the Trail as it passes along Dorena Reservoir). Every year, late in the summer, it puts out 12-18” stalks with tiny white flowers on one side. Unfortunately, I’ve rarely seen it blooming along the Trail; maybe I am just there at the wrong times.

After the abundance of wild flowers we see each spring, I think it is fun to find plants blooming in the late summer as well.

Rattlesnake plantain flowers.

Rattlesnake plantain flowers.

This native plant is becoming rare because of loss of habitat and wild harvesting. If you find them in the wild, please admire them, take a photo, and leave them there as they will not transplant well to your garden.

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Comments

  1. cool! You’re always finding interesting things . . . .

  2. Finally! I have always wondered what that was. I never got the answer at OSU either ( I took a local flora class ). Thanks for solving that. I always thought it was some lily as I had never seen it bloom. Thanks Collette !

  3. Interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it though.

  4. That species is not the rattlesnake plantain. Goodyear Pubescens is known as the rattlesnake plantain, most common in Virginia.

    • Hi Grant,
      Thanks for your feedback. My research tells me that the common name for Goodyera oblongifolia is also “rattlesnake plantain” and those are found in Oregon.

      However, I have never claimed to be a botanist. If you have another idea of what this plant might be, please let me know and I’ll continue my research.
      Colette

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