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Published In: Species Plantarum 2: 611. 1753. (1 May 1753) (Sp. Pl.) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 9/1/2017)
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5. Chelone L. (turtlehead)

Plants perennial herbs, with rhizomes, terrestrial or occasionally emergent aquatics. Stems erect or ascending (sometimes sprawling with age), unbranched or branched toward the tip, glabrous. Leaves opposite, sessile or short-petiolate, sometimes slightly expanded at the very base but not clasping the stem. Leaf blades simple, unlobed, linear to elliptic or ovate, the margins entire or toothed, the surfaces glabrous or the undersurface minutely hairy, mostly or exclusively along the main veins, the venation pinnate. Inflorescences terminal spikes (occasionally also at the tips of mostly leafless branches, then appearing more or less axillary), 3–9 cm long, dense (the axis not visible between the flowers), the inflorescence usually subtended by a pair of slightly reduced, leaflike bracts, the individual flowers sessile or the uppermost sometimes minutely stalked, each subtended by 2 or 3 prominent, sepaloid bractlets positioned immediately below the calyx. Flowers perfect. Calyces sometimes becoming slightly enlarged at fruiting, deeply 5-lobed, the lobes equal or slightly unequal in length, broadly elliptic to broadly ovate-elliptic, rounded to broadly and bluntly pointed at the tip, glabrous or the margins fringed with usually minute, nonglandular hairs. Corollas 25–35 mm long, bilabiate, 5-lobed but often appearing more or less 4-lobed, glabrous externally, the tube longer than the lobes, white to all or partially pinkish-tinged to pink or reddish purple, lacking colored nectar guides (these present elsewhere), the tube gradually enlarged from near the base, lacking a spur, the throat mostly closed, appearing somewhat flattened, the lower lip shallowly 3-lobed, convex, 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, the filaments of 2 lengths, not exserted, flattened and hairy, curved inward toward their tips, the anther sacs spreading, densely woolly; staminode 1, shorter than the stamens, linear to narrowly strap-shaped, positioned along the lower side of the corolla tube, glabrous (except occasionally for a few minute hairs at the tip), the tip straight and usually truncate. Style 1, not exserted, the stigma capitate, unlobed. Fruits capsules, broadly ovoid, broadly ovoid-elliptic, or nearly globose, tapered to a sharply pointed or minutely beaked tip, glabrous, the 2 locules equal in size, dehiscent longitudinally along the 2 sutures. Seeds numerous, 3–4 mm long, broadly oval to more or less circular in outline, strongly flattened, the body brown to dark brown, usually only on 1 of the surfaces, sometimes lighter-mottled or -streaked, encircled by a broad wing, this tan to light brown, often with a faint to more prominent, radiating pattern of somewhat translucent, fine lines or streaks, the surface otherwise glabrous, more or less smooth. Four species, eastern temperate North America.

The genus Chelone is related to Penstemon. Both possess relatively well-developed staminodes. For further discussion of similarities and differences between the two genera, see the treatment of Penstemon.

Pennell (1935) described the pollination mechanism in the genus, which is mainly pollinated by bumblebees. A bee landing on the flower grasps the lower lip, the weight pulling apart the otherwise closed throat. In entering the throat of the flower the bee causes the anthers to separate, which dust the thorax of the insect with pollen (in addition to pollen it collects intentionally).

The two Missouri turtlehead species are both sold as garden ornamentals, particularly C. obliqua. They can tolerate relatively dense shade, but require a moist site. Chelone glabra was a minor ceremonial and medicinal plant for Native Americans, who prepared an infusion for the treatment of worms and unwanted pregnancies, among other uses (Moerman, 1998).

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