DOWNY RATTLESNAKE PLANTAIN
Downy rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens) grows across eastern North America and is recognized for it’s handsome evergreen foliage. Some sources include it among the exotic “jewel” orchids, which are coveted by collectors for display in small pots or dishes.
Downy rattlesnake plantain is a low-growing orchid with magnificent, evergreen leaves, mottled white-on-green. The leaves grow from creeping rhizomes and under ideal conditions, the plant may form large colonies, sometimes to the exclusion of other species. In summer, downy rattlesnake plantain produces a stalked inflorence with 20-40 small white flowers.
Downy rattlesnake plantain is categorized as a FAC+ species, meaning it is equally likely to occur in wetland or non-wetlands, but with a slight tendency toward wetland settings. It tolerates a ranges of shady to party-shady conditions, generally on acidic substrates, from dry coniferous forests to mixed conifer-deciduous woods, as well as bog and swamp edges.
The genus name Goodyera was named for the English botanist John Goodyer. “Its common name, rattlesnake orchid, derives from the veined leaves—’rattlesnake’ for the similarity of leaf shape and venation pattern to the head of a snake, and ‘plantain’ for the vague likeness of the leaves to that of the common plantain, Plantago“. (Homoya, p. 122)
Downy rattlesnake plantain is native to much of Eastern North America, as far west as central Canada and south through the Carolinas and the Black Belt.
Depending on the site, downy rattlesnake plantain associates with herbs such as partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata), and Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). Overstory trees include red and silver maple, sassafras, and white and black oak.