Jim Kingdon, Public domain.

Discover the White Turtlehead

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White Turtlehead has masses of beautiful white hooded flowers at the ends of the stems from late summer to mid fall, which are most effective when planted in groupings. The flowers are excellent for cutting. It is a good choice for shade or woodland gardens, rain gardens, bog gardens, pond or water garden peripheries, wildflower or native plant gardens. In nature, it can be found in ponds and stream edges, marshes, and wet borders.

Turtle head is a perennial plant that blooms from July to September. Some other non-scientific names include: shellflower, snakehead, turtlebloom and fishhead. Its serrated pointy leaves remain dark green in colour throughout the season.

Quick Growing Guide

Botanical Name: Chelone glabra

En français: Galane glabre



Sun / Shade:

Water: Moist to wet

Hardiness Zones:

White Turtlehead Pollinators

White turtlehead flowers do not have any fragrance, but bees do enter the tubular corolla. The Baltimore checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton), a butterfly, depends on this plant for its life cycle. It may also attract hummingbirds.

Spectacular Baltimore checkerspot on the end of a finger
Baltimore checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton) depends on White Turtlehead

Propagating Chelone glabra

Chelone glabra grows in shady sites and requires moist soil. It grows equally well in mineral-rich or highly organic soil such as in bogs. It is often found in flood plains, near springs, around sedge bogs and in scrubland, along shorelines and in ditches alongside tall plants such as cattails and cord grass. Plant in autumn, or in spring with moist, chilled seeds. Borders as long as the soil moisture requirements can be met.

Division can be done in spring or fall when the plant is dormant. The seeds are ready for harvest usually after the first frost. They turn darker brown at time of maturity.

Caring for White Turtlehead

Consider pinching back the stem ends in spring to reduce mature plant height. it slowly spreads by rhizomes.

For companion plants, try pairing with Eupatorium colestinum, Iris virginica, Lobelia siphilitica, or Osmunda cinnamomea.


Although this plant is not edible, a tonic derived from this plant is said to be benificial for indigestion. It has also been used as an anti-depressent or to treat gall-bladder problems, though science has not confirmed these findings.

Native Americans used this plant for a variety of reasons, including: skin sores, wounds, laxatives, to prevent pregnancy, to treat fever, as a dietary aid and more. It is characterized as a wetland plant, and therefore requires planting near or in swamp areas, marshes, ditches, wet meadows, the wet shores of rivers, streams, and lakes and anywhere where water is abundant.


Turtlehead has no major diesease or pest issues, although it may be susceptible to mildew in drier soils, or where air circulation is poor, and also in excessive shade. It is also deer-resistent due its bitter tasting leaves.

“Chelone” is Greek for “turtle”, derived from the fact that the flower itself, when turned to the side, resembles a turtle head. “Glabra” is latin for smooth, being that there is no hair on the leaves or stems.

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