Goodyera repens

Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain

Goodyera repens, Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain Orchid
Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain Orchid

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Goodyera, in honor of John Goodyer (1592-1664), English botanist from Petersfield, Hamphire
  • repens, from the Latin, "creeping", a reference to the creeping habit of the buried stems.
  • Common Name, from
  • Other common names include Northern Rattlesnake Plantain, Lesser Rattlesnake Plantain, Creeping Rattlesnake Plantain, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain, White Plantain, Squirrel-ear, Creeping Ladies Tresses (UK), Knärot (Swe), Knerot (Nor), Knærod (Dan), Yövilkka (Fin), Netzblatt (Ger), Mogairlean Ealaidheach (Gaelic), Tajê¿a jednostronna (Pol)


  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Liliopsida, the Monocotyledons
      • Subclass Liliidae, the Lilies
        • Order Orchidales, the Orchids
          • Family Orchidaceae, the Orchids
            • Genus Goodyera, the Rattlesnake Plantain Orchids. About 25 species worldwide, 4 in North America, all of which occur in the North Woods and 2, perhaps 3, in the BWCA.
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 43595
  • Also known as Peramium ophiodes, Goodyera ophoides, Goodyera repens var. ophiodes.
  • First described by Robert Brown in 1813


  • A native, perennial orchid, 3"-14" tall.
  • Leaves deciduous, mottled green and white, ½"-1" long.
  • Rhizomes thick, fiberous.
  • Flowers white to pale green and only 4mm-5 mm long; on a one-sided raceme, 1"-3½" long.
  • Fruit a capsule, not quite ½" long.


  • Distinguished from other northwoods herbs by the shape and pattern of the leaves in the basal rosette.


  • Alaska to Newfoundland, south to British Columbia, New Mexico, South Dakota, Tennessee, and North Carolina.


  • Coniferous swamps and bogs, cool, shady, moist coniferous forests with a mossy understory. Also dry to mesic upland coniferous and mixed forest. Dry, cold, mossy woods, especially under conifers
  • Soils cool, acidic, and nutrient poor.
  • Occurs in full or partial shade.
  • A late successional or climax species, normally found in stands 95 to 350 years old.
  • Appears very sensitive to disturbance.


  • Appears to be a fire-sensitive species. Killed by fire; rhizomes apparently do not survive burning.
  • Prefers the shade of older forests and does not readily reinvade areas that have been opened up by fire.



  • European settlers used the leaves to soothe mucous membranes, and to treat tuberculosis of the lymph glands and eye diseases.



  • Reproduces sexually by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes.
  • Flowers 14 July to 6 August in the North Country.
  • Seeds require a mycorrhizal endophytic fungus, (Ceratobasidium cornigerum) or (Rhizoctonia goodyearae-repentis), to develop in the wild. Mature plants seem to be independent of the mycorrhizal relationship.
  • Pollinated by Bumblebees (Bombus spp.)


  • Difficult


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 2 (average minimum annual temperature -50ºF)
  • Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain is a protected species in Minnesota and may not be collected in the wild without a permit from the DNR.
  • Available by mail order from specialty suppliers.



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Last Updated on 3 July, 2004