Goodyera oblongifolia

Western rattlesnake plantain or more appropriately, rattlesnake orchid, is found in western North America from Alaska to Mexico and in eastern Canada and the USA. Early settlers mistook the plant for plantain due to the similar leaf shape, but Goodyera oblongifolia is an orchid. These shots were taken over the Canada Day weekend on a hike at Smuggler’s Cove Provincial Park. The rosettes of persistent leaves are easy to spot once you first notice them. Several plants in the park were sending up flower spikes, so flowers should be out for observation very soon. Although, for this species, I think the leaf markings are the better show.

The orchid can grow to form small mats in forest environments, often under conifers. The rosettes are small with leaves 3-7 cm and the flower spike rises to 30+ cm. Few historical uses for the plant are mentioned, but the Washington Native Orchid Society mentions some medicinal use and the curious use as a balloon like toy: “Stl’al’imx children used the leaves as balloons by rubbing them until the top layers separated and blowing through the stem to inflate them.” And Plants For a Future mentions the use of its exudation as a chewing gum.

Goodyera oblongifolia
Goodyera oblongifolia

8 responses to “Goodyera oblongifolia”

  1. Meg Bernstein

    Very neat growth pattern.

  2. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Lovely, wild-looking plant, beautiful markings. Makes me long for the woods.

  3. Deb

    Balloons? I’d expect them to be called Goodyera blimpafolia!
    : D

  4. Angela

    Ah! I was just noticing these along the Dog Mountain trail in the Columbia Gorge a few days ago– I wondered if it was an orchid… Thanks for your prompt response to my psychic query! 😀

  5. Nancy Palmer

    Way more impressive than a goodyear blimp, but that is an unusual name!

  6. Bonnie

    I too was expecting something more along the lines of a rubber tree plant!
    And an orchid on the ground? With no pretty flower? My ignorance is so wide-ranging.

  7. Kathleen Garness

    Here in Illinois we have Goodyera pubescens, with similar coloration, slightly more ovate leaves. There used to be a very large colony of them among the oak trees edging Baker Hill Prairie, near Glen Ellen, but the colony was destroyed several years ago when the area became developed. Goodyera is often poached from the woods and resold through nurseries. : ( I even found one, denuded of its leaves and packed in peat moss, in a cardboard wildflower package at Lowe’s Home Center!

  8. Autumnjoy57

    I thought for sure I’d see a picture of a blimp when I clicked on this.

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