Plant of the Week: Rattlesnake Master

Its common name sounds like an ominous villain in a western. But this odd member of the carrot family—sporting yucca-like leaves and prickly balls of flowers—is simply a tall wildflower prairie species with a unique appearance and colorful past. Native Americans used the dried seedheads as rattles, and pioneers mistakenly believed the roots to be an effective antidote for rattlesnake bite. The plant’s whitish-green balls contain numerous small white flowers that are individually surrounded by prickly bracts (specialized leaves). The flowers attract many kinds of insects, including long-tongued and short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers, moths, beetles and plant bugs. These insects usually seek nectar, although some of the bees may collect pollen for their nests.

Common Name: rattlesnake master
Scientific Name: Eryngium yuccifolium
Family: Apiaceae
Native Status: northern Canada to southeastern United States
Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
Height: 4–5 feet
Flowering Time: June–September
Flower Color: white, green
Interest: The entire plant is bluish or grayish green and quite hairless.

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