The Medicinal Plant Garden

of Birmingham-Southern College

  • Chelone glabra
  • Chelone glabra
  • Chelone glabra

Common Name

Turtlehead, balmony

Related Species

White turtlehead is in the Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)

Geographic Distribution and Habitat

This obligate wetland plant is found primarily east of the Mississippi River in North America. Found in wetland habitats such as brushy marshes, stream banks,  wet ditches, low meadows and woodlands.


Chelone is a wetland perennial herb with tight terminal clusters of white (often lavender-tinged) tubular, 2-lipped flowers resembling turtle heads. White turtlehead, a robust perennial, grows 1-4 ft. tall. Its erect stems end in spikes of white flowers, the shape of which suggests a turtle head. The leaves are elongate and arranged opposite each other along the stem. The distinctive shape of this flower is reflected in the genus name, derived from the Greek chelone (a tortoise).(Wildflower Center)

Chelone glabra is a larval host and/or nectar source for Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas phaeton).

Traditional Uses

Cherokee used Chelone for infusion of blooms taken for worms, sores or skin eruptions, taken to increase appetite and infusion of blooms was taken as a laxative.Young shoots and leaves were boiled, fried and eaten. (Hamel and Chiltoskey 1975)

Turtlehead plants are used in natural medicine. Traditional practices create a tonic from this plant that is claimed to be beneficial for indigestion, constipation, and stimulating the appetite. It is also an anthimintic (de-wormer) and a salve from the leaves may relieve itching and inflammation.(USFS)