Autumn carries more gold
in its pocket
than all the other seasons.
― Jim Bishop
We love autumn gold – yellow Rubeckia, Goldenrod at the roadside, and tawny leaves on green grass. But there is another kind of 'gold' to be found in the garden as summer falls away. I am thinking of Chelone or Turtlehead. This late-season bloomer is absolutely 'platinum' in my books.
The Missouri Botanical Garden – another go-to site for solid plant information – describes Chelone as "a stiffly erect, clump-forming Missouri native perennial which typically grows 2-3' tall and occurs in moist woods, swampy areas and along streams. Hooded, snapdragon-like, two-lipped, deep rose flowers appear in tight, spike-like terminal racemes from late summer into autumn. Flowers purportedly resemble turtle heads." Apparently the plant's name comes from "the Greek word chelone meaning tortoise, in reference to the turtlehead shape of the flowers." The epithet (the second part of the Latin name) means "lopsided or oblique."
In his excellent factsheet, Turtleheads–The Genus Chelone, Boland explains that there are only four species in the genus Chelone.
Chelone glabra is the white flowered species. Chelone obliqua and Chelone lyonii both have pink flowers, but vary in their leaf shape and their native range. Boland's factsheet helped me examine the characteristics of the leaves on the Chelone in my garden and I am pretty sure it is Chelone lyonii. A beauty by any name!
Read more about Chelone glabra
Read about Chelone obliqua in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, Minnesota. Excellent images.
Source for Chelone obliqua plants - Ontario Plant Source
Source for Chelone glabra seeds - Wildflower Farm, an Ontario supplier.