Chelone obliqua L.

Rose Turtlehead

Chelone obliqua plant

Family - Plantaginaceae

Stems - To 1.5 m, ascending to erect, sometimes sprawling with age, mostly unbranched, glabrous.

Chelone_obliqua_stemStem and node.

Leaves - Opposite, simple, petiolate, lanceolate to elliptic, tips sharply pointed, margins sharply toothed with ascending teeth, glabrous.


Chelone_obliqua_leaf2Leaf abaxial.

Inflorescences - Dense terminal spikes to 9 cm long, usually subtended by a pair of bracts similar to the stem leaves. Flowers subtended by 2 or 3 sepaloid bractlets immediately beneath calyx, these ovate, pointed at tip, to 1 cm long.


Flowers - Calyces 7-11 mm long, deeply 5-lobed, the lobe margins sometimes thin and translucent, minutely short-hairy. Corollas 28-37 mm long, bilabiate, 5-lobed but often appearing more or less 4-lobed, glabrous externally, the tube longer than the lobes, pink to reddish purple, sometimes lighter toward the tip or base, the lower lip shallowly 3-lobed and bearded with woolly hairs, the upper lip slightly to moderately keeled and arched downward or slightly helmet-shaped, minutely notched to shallowly 2- lobed at the tip. Fertile stamens 4 with anther sacs densely wooly. Staminode 1, white, glabrous. Style 1, not exserted, the stigma capitate, unlobed.




Fruits - Capsules, broadly ovoid to nearly globose, with minute beaked tip, glabrous, with 2 locules. Seeds numerous, 3-4 mm, roundish and strongly flattened, brown.

Flowering - August - October.

Habitat - Bottomland forests, sloughs, fens, streambanks.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Other info. - This plant is often cultivated but rarely seen in the wild. In fact, both species of Chelone are listed as species of conservation concern in Missouri, this one with an S2 (imperiled) ranking. The plant is easy to recognize, although it could be confused with Physostegia virginiana, a far more common species which has squarish stems, narrower leaves, and usually more flowers in the inflorescence. Look for ovate, glossy deep green leaves and distinctively shaped flowers in a tight cluster.

Photographs taken at Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 10-3-2011 and 9-12-2018 (SRTurner).