Friday, January 14, 2011

Native Plant of the Week: Rattlesnake Master ~ Eryngium yuccifolium

Rattlesnake Master ~ Eryngium yuccifolium


Other Common Names: Button Eryngo, Yuccaleaf Eryngo

Rattlesnake Master is a very attractive prairie native preferring moist to mesic sites in prairies. As the latin name suggests, the 1-2" wide basal foliage resembles that of a Yucca, silver gray in color, with "soft weak prickles spaced far apart along the edges" (USDA Plants Database Fact Sheet)



This plant is a tall grass prairie species. "The new growth is nutritious and readily eaten by all classes of livestock. It is a decreaser that disappears along with the better grasses as a range is continuously overgrazed." (Native Grasses Legumes and Forbs, Phillips Petroleum Company, 1956.)

Rattlesnake master grows to about 3 feet tall when flowering. The globe shaped flower heads consist of many 5 petaled white flowers and emerge in early July.


The flowers have a mild sweet fragrance and are pollinated by many types of insects, especially wasp species.

In our yard, it is also one of the favorite perches for gray tree frogs.



It is a great native for the home landscape in a full sun location and medium to moist soil. The flower heads dry and are attractive late into the fall. Be careful if you collect seed of the sharp bracts on the flower heads (be sure to wear gloves). Once dried the seed heads fall apart quite easily. According to the Prairie Moon Nursery catalog, it is easy to grow from seed, needing only a cold stratification for 60 days.

Rattlesnake Master is native from Minnesota southwards to Texas and east, except for the northeastern States. In Minnesota, it is native only to the southern portion of the State, just south of the metro area. Link to Distribution Map