Years ago in the rain garden area of my prairie, I had native White Turtlehead (Chelone gabra) and Pink Turtlehead (Chelone oblique).* Over the years, as they’ve expanded their locations and moved closer to one another, the White Turtlehead seems to be changing. It has adopted a distinct white and pink variegated look. Even its leaves are changing.
Turtlehead (Chelone spp)
Turtlehead likes moist soil and partial or dappled sunlight, so it is perfect for rain gardens. It can also be grown successfully in shade gardens.
The leaves are opposite on the stem and droop slightly. They are typically rather long (about 6 inches). They are hairless and have a dark green upper surface color and a pale green lower surface. Each upright stem terminates in a spike of compact clusters of snapdragon-type flowers which are tubular in shape and have two-lipped petals, which give the blooms the appearance of a turtle’s head with an open mouth. Hence its common name. Each flower has a sparse pale yellow beard inside the lower lip.
Here in the Midwest, typically native turtlehead can be found in white and pink. Some of the white variety can have pink tinges. In the more Southern states, a red variety can be found. But here in yours truly’s yard, the White Turtlehead seems to have more than pink tinges. I haven’t seen it as a pure white species for a number of years. See the contrast below.
*Although the White Turtlehead was known to me to be native, because it came from a plant rescue in a remnant prairie area, the heritage of the Pink Turtlehead is unknown. It was a gift from a friend before the time either of us understood what made up a true native.