Rattlesnake Plantains

Three Native Orchids of Distant Hill

Downy rattlesnake-plantain leaves (Goodyera pubescens) are evergreen and are quite beautiful.
Downy rattlesnake-plantain (Goodyera pubescens)


Downy rattlesnake-plantain (Goodyera pubescens) is one of three species of the genus Goodyera native to Distant Hill Gardens. It is the most common species of rattlesnake-plantain in New England, and can be easily identified by the broad central stripe down the middle of each leaf. The evergreen foliage is attractive year round, with individual leaves lasting 3 to 4 years. It flowers in late summer with small white flowers densely packed on a slender cylindrical spike, 6 to 18 inches tall. Downy rattlesnake-plantain can be found in the entire eastern half of the U.S. and Canada as far south as Florida.


Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) blooming in the woods at Distant Hill Gardens in Walpole, New Hampshire, USA.
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) in bloom.

Despite the name, rattlesnake-plantains are not related to the common lawn weed plantains, but has similar appearing rosettes of leaves. They are actually in the orchid family, Orchidaceae.


In addition to Goodyera pubescens, Distant Hill Gardens has two other species of native rattlesnake-plantain growing in our woods: 


  • Goodyera repens - (Dwarf Rattlesnake-plantain, also known as Lesser Rattlesnake-plantain, Creeping Rattlesnake-plantain, or Northern Rattlesnake-plantain.) 

Checkered Rattlesnake-plantain is a hybrid of Giant Rattlesnake-plantain (G. oblongifolia), and Dwarf Rattlesnake-plantain.  In New England, G. oblongifolia is found only in Maine, where it is considered Endangered.


Hybrids can develop between Checkered Rattlesnake-plantain (Goodyera tesselata) and Dwarf Rattlesnake-plantain (Goodyera repens). This makes these two species of Goodyera difficult to identify at times.