Thursday, October 14, 2010

Attractive Foliage Plants

Many plants increase their beauty when they develop flowers, but there are others that are more attractive without the adornment of a bloom. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain, Goodyera pubescens, is one such plant. The light colored veins against the dark green background make this one of the most beautiful plants in the woods. If this was a house plant it would probably be in every home in America.

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain is a member of the Orchid family. Like many orchids, it doesn’t bloom every season. Most of the time it just expresses itself as compact whorls of basal leaves growing in the shadows of the deciduous forest. The leaves remain throughout the year and are a welcome sight in the middle of winter.

I’ll admit that the spike of white flowers is attractive, but it only lasts for a short time. This is how the spike will look through the winter. Those bladders along the stem are full of the tiny seeds that tend to trickle out over the course of several months.

A plant often found growing in association with Rattlesnake Plantain is the Spotted Wintergreen, Chimaphila maculata. I can’t look at this plant without thinking of Christmas. The least little bit of sunlight causes these leaves to glow.

The flower stalk often looks like it belongs to the same plant as those beautiful leaves. I managed to miss seeing the showy flower this year. It appears that some seeds will result from this year’s blooms. Maybe I can collect some seed and raise a few of these plants.

This is another evergreen plant. I think the biggest struggle for both the Wintergreen and the Plantain is getting out from under the leaves that cover them each autumn. By November, the little plants will be completely buried by leaves, but next spring they will again be visible. It’s sort of remarkable how this happens.


  1. What lovely plants and more great information. I truly enjoy my science lesson here on your blog.

  2. Hi, Lois. I never find more than 8 or 10 of these plants at one time. It would really be neat to see them blanket the forest floor.

  3. Wow, never saw a persisting spike for the rattlesnake plantain. Good info once again!