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Common Herb Species of the Northwest Forest

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GRAMINOIDS

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Goodyera repens
Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain Description

General - an evergreen perennial from slender creeping rhizomes; stems leafless, slender, 10 - 20 cm tall, even up to 30 cm, with tiny gland-tipped hairs.

Leaves - in an a rosette at stem base, broadly egg-shaped to oval-lance-shaped, 1.5 - 3 cm long; dark green with darker veins that are usually conspicuously white-margined.

Flowers - several in one-sided cluster at stem tip; white or pale green, 3.5 - 5 mm long, hooded; lower lip deeply pouched; appering mid-summer.

Fruit - many-seeded egg-shaped capsules, 5 - 9 mm long, ascending to spreading, tipped with withered flowers; appearing late summer.

Habitat

Dry to moist forest, common in many areas; widespread across boreal forest, circumpolar.

Notes

Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain reportedly grows for 7 years before it blooms. The sweetly scented flowers are fragrant both day and night, and attract moths and butterflies to carry the pollen. When the flowers are fertilized they produce from 200 to 400 seeds in each small pod. Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain does not rely entirely on its seeds to reproduce. It also forms extensive cloned colonies by sending up new plants from its spreading rhizomes. Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain was not widely used by native peoples in our region. Farther east, however, several groups used this orchid in blood tonics, appetite stimulants, toothache remedies, and in medicines for treating colds, sore eyes, thrush, female disorders, bladder problems, stomach diseases, and even snakebite. Fresh leaves or whole plants, dried and powdered, were used as a soothing poultice on scratches, insect bites, burns and similar ailments. European settlers used the leaves to soothe mucous membranes, and to treat tuberculosis of the lymph glands and eye diseases. The species name repens, from the Latin, repere, "to creep", refers to the creeping habit of the buried stems.


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