ghost orchid

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens)

Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids Website

  Kingdom:   Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom:   Tracheobionta - Vascular Plants
      Superdivision:   Spermatophyta - Seed plants
        Division:   Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
          Class:   Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
            Subclass:   Liliidae - Lily/related subclass
              Order:   Orchidales - Orchid order
                Family:   Orchidaceae - Orchid Family
                  Subfamily:   Spiranthoideae - Spiranthoids
                    Tribe:   Cranichideae - Cranichids
                      Subtribe:   Goodyerinae - Goodyera subtribe

Distribution Map:
Distribution map for Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens)
Synonyms: Epipactis pubescens (Willd.) A.A.Eaton 1908; Epipactis willdenovii House 1910; Goodyera pubescens var. minor Sims 1825; *Neottia pubescens Willd. 1805; Neottia repens Pursh 1813; Orchiodes pubescens (Willd.) Kuntze 1891; Peramium pubescens (Willd.) Curtiss ex Small & Vail 1893; Peramium tesselatum A.Heller 1900; Satyrium repens Michx. 1803; Tussaca reticulata Raf. 1814

Summary: Plants consist of a basal rosette of medium-to-dark green leaves reticulated with silvery-white veins. Flower stems, which are covered in fine pubescence, emerge in summer to bloom in mid-late summer. Flowers small, 8 mm across with fine pubescence on the outside. Lips have a deep pouch with a small protuberance at their tips.

Common Name: Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Habitat: Woodlands, often in mixed hardwood/conifer forests. Generally in moderately moist conditions, but can be found occasionally in wetter areas.

Flowering season: June through August (peaking in July)

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) - Plant
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) - Plant
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) - Entire Inflorescence
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) - Entire Inflorescence
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) - Flower Closeup
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) - Flower Closeup


This is another temperate species that is common in states to the north of Florida, but makes only a tenuous foray into Florida, following the river basin of the Apalachicola River. Only one small colony of these plants has been discovered along a trail within this area. I have not tried to relocate this particular colony, so these photos are from a Georgian plant.

Plants reproduce not only via seed, but also vegetatively via stolons, so a small colony can grow to a fairly extensive one if left undisturbed.

Individual plants consist of a basal rosette of oblong-elliptic leaves with a bluish cast to them, reticulated with fine, silvery-white veins. The scale-like pattern formed by the green part of the leaves reminded early settlers of a rattlesnake's skin, giving rise to the common name of "Rattlesnake Plantain". The leaves are evergreen and surprisingly cold-resistant.

In late spring, the flower spike, covered with small hairs, will begin to emerge, with the flowers opening mid-summer. The flowers themselves have small green stripes tipping their outspread sepals. The dorsal sepal and two petals form a small hood over the deeply pouched lip. Between these, the brownish tip of the column can be seen.

Keen-eyed hikers exploring riverine systems in the Florida panhandle would do well to keep an eye out for these plants and hopefully add more known populations to our records for this species.

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