Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This native perennial plant is 2-5' tall. It has a stout central stem that is unbranched, except near the inflorescence. The alternate leaves tend to occur near the base of the plant, although a few smaller leaves occur along the upper portion of the stem. These leaves are long and strap-like, rather stiff in texture, and up to 2½' long and 2½" across. They are narrowly lanceolate, often curve downward, and have parallel venation. There are widely scattered, but stiff, teeth along the margins. The base of leaves clasp or wrap around the stalk. The entire plant is bluish or greyish green, and quite hairless. At the apex of the central stem, and sometimes from the axils of the upper leaves, occurs a long-stalked inflorescence. This consists of several prickly balls of flowers that are individually about ½–1" across. These whitish green balls contain numerous small white flowers that are individually surrounded by prickly bracts. A flower consists of 5 white petals, a divided white pistil, and several white stamens with light brown anthers. Each ball of flowers is subtended by a star-like rosette of small leaves. These flowers have a sickly honey-like scent in bright sunlight.  The blooming period occurs from mid- to late summer, and the balls of flowers remain attractive for about 2 months. The root system consists of a central taproot. After blooming, a plant will gradually die down, but one or more offsets will develop at its base. Thus, a small clump of plants will eventually form.
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Comments

This is a very odd member of the Carrot family that resembles a yucca or some other desert plant. However, it is a true tallgrass prairie species with a unique appearance. A close relative is Eryngium leavenworthii (Leavenworth Eryngo), which is an annual plant with a purplish appearance. This latter species doesn't occur in Illinois, but can be found in dry prairies further west. In the past, the dried seedheads of Rattlesnake Master were used as rattles by Amerindians. Pioneers thought the roots could be used as an effective antidote to rattlesnake bite, hence the common name of this plant. However, this belief was erroneous. Return
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Description

Rattlesnake master is a warm-season perennial native forb which grows well on wet or dry mesic prairie soil. Plants grow 2 to 6 feet tall from a short, thick rootstock. The bluish green basal leaves are up to 3 feet long and up to 1½ inches wide. The leaves along the stem are much shorter, but they may be as wide as the basal leaves. All the leaves are thick and parallel veined and have soft or weak prickles spaced far apart along the edges. The leaf bases clasp the single, erect stem. Flower heads are on stout peduncles at the tip of the stem. Each nearly spherical flower head is from 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter and is made up of many small flowers. Whitish bracts stick out sharply from the flowers, which gives the flower head a rough, prickly feel and appearance. The heads have a honey-like odor and are in bloom June to September. Individual fruits, which mature in the flower head, are less than 1/10 inch long. The root of rattlesnake master has been used medicinally by American Indians and pioneers. Eryngium is Greek for “prickly plant” and yuccifolium is Greek for “yucca leaves.”

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Alternative names

Button eryngo

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Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Distribution and adaptation

Rattlesnake master is found generally in wet or dry prairies and open woods in the southeast US, north to Virginia, and throughout the Midwest to Minnesota, Kansas and Texas.

For a current distribution map, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Website.

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Eryngium yuccifolium Michx.:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Ecology

Dispersal

Establishment

Prepare a clean weed free seedbed by disking and harrowing or using chemical weed control. Firm the seedbed by cultipacking. Seedbed should be firm enough to allow seed to be planted ¼ inch deep. For prairie restoration or diverse plantings for wildlife, rattlesnake master can be incorporated into seed mixes at a rate of 2 oz pure live seed/ac (there are 177,700 clean seeds in one pound of seed). Use stratified seed for spring planting (May to June), and unstratified seed for a fall dormant seeding (November to March). Apply no fertilizer the establishment year unless soil test indicates a severe deficiency of potassium and/or phosphorus. Use no nitrogen during the establishment year as this can encourage weed competition.

Transplants planted in spring or fall can also be used for establishing rattlesnake master on permanent sites.

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Rattlesnake Master in Illinois

Eryngium yuccifolium (Rattlesnake Master)
(Bees usually suck nectar, but sometimes collect pollen; other insects suck nectar; Rhipiphorid beetles lay eggs on the flowers [lgf] as their larvae are parasitic on some flower-visiting insects; most observations are from Robertson, otherwise they are from Mitchell, Moure & Hurd, and Hilty as indicated below)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus fraternus (Mch), Bombus griseocallis sn, Bombus impatiens sn, Bombus pensylvanica sn; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina dupla dupla sn; Anthophoridae (Epeolini): Epeolus bifasciatus, Triepeolus lunatus lunatus; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes coreopsis (Mch); Anthophoridae (Nomadini): Nomada texana sn; Megachilidae (Coelioxini): Coelioxys octodentata sn icp, Coelioxys sayi sn; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile albitarsis (Mch), Megachile brevis brevis sn cp, Megachile mendica sn, Megachile petulans sn

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea sn, Augochloropsis metallica metallica sn, Augochloropsis sumptuosa (Mch), Halictus confusus sn, Halictus ligatus sn, Halictus parallelus sn, Halictus rubicunda sn, Lasioglossum admirandus (MH), Lasioglossum bruneri (MH), Lasioglossum cinctipes sn, Lasioglossum coreopsis (Mch), Lasioglossum forbesii sn, Lasioglossum imitatus sn cp, Lasioglossum pectoralis sn, Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus sn, Lasioglossum versatus sn cp; Halictidae (Nomiinae): Nomia nortoni nortoni sn; Halictidae (Sphecodini): Sphecodes cressonii sn, Sphecodes dichroa sn icp, Sphecodes stygius sn; Colletidae (Colletinae): Colletes ciliata sn; Colletidae (Hylaeinae): Hylaeus affinis sn, Hylaeus mesillae sn; Andrenidae (Panurginae): Calliopsis andreniformis sn

Wasps
Sphecidae (Astatinae): Astata unicolor; Sphecidae (Bembicinae): Bembix americana, Bembix nubilipennis, Bicyrtes quadrifasciata, Bicyrtes ventralis, Stizoides renicinctus, Stizus brevipennis; Sphecidae (Crabroniae): Ectemnius decemmaculatus, Ectemnius rufifemur, Oxybelus emarginatus, Oxybelus mexicanus, Oxybelus uniglumis; Sphecidae (Larrinae): Tachysphex belfragei, Tachytes aurulenta, Tachytes distinctus; Sphecidae (Philanthinae): Cerceris bicornuta, Cerceris frontata, Cerceris fumipennis, Cerceris prominens, Eucerceris zonata fq, Philanthus gibbosus, Philanthus ventilabris; Sphecidae (Sphecinae): Ammophila kennedyi, Ammophila nigricans, Ammophila pictipennis icp, Eremnophila aureonotata, Isodontia apicalis, Prionyx atrata, Prionyx thomae, Sphex ichneumonea (Rb, H), Sphex nudus, Sphex pensylvanica; Vespidae: Polistes dorsalis fq, Polistes fuscata; Vespidae (Eumeninae): Ancistrocerus campestris, Eumenes fraterna, Eumenes smithii, Euodynerus annulatus, Euodynerus foraminatus, Monobia quadridens, Parancistrocerus vagus, Stenodynerus anormis icp; Sapygidae: Sapyga interrupta; Tiphiidae: Myzinum caroliniana, Myzinum quinquecincta; Scoliidae: Scolia bicincta, Scolia nobilitata; Mutillidae: Timulla vagans; Pompilidae: Anoplius americanus icp, Anoplius atrox, Anoplius lepidus, Ceropales elegans, Entypus fulvicornis, Poecilopompilus interrupta, Tachypompilus ferruginea; Leucospididae: Leucospis affinis

Flies
Tabanidae: Tabanus lineola; Stratiomyidae: Odontomyia cincta, Nemotelus glaber; Mydidae: Mydas clavatus, Mydas tibialis (Rb, H); Syrphidae: Allograpta obliqua, Eristalinus aeneus, Eristalis stipator, Eristalis tenax, Eristalis transversus, Milesia virginiensis, Orthonevra nitida, Paragus tibialis, Sphaerophoria contiqua, Syritta pipiens, Toxomerus geminatus, Toxomerus marginatus, Toxomerus politus; Conopidae: Physocephala texana, Physocephala tibialis, Physoconops brachyrhynchus, Thecophora occidensis, Zodion americanum, Zodion fulvifrons, Zodion obliquefasciatum; Tachinidae: Archytas analis, Belvosia bifasciata, Copecrypta ruficauda, Cylindromyia euchenor, Cylindromyia fumipennis, Gymnoclytia immaculata, Gymnoclytia occidua, Gymnosoma fuliginosum, Leskia similis, Phasia aeneoventris, Phasia fumosa, Phasia purpurascens, Phorantha asteris (Rb, MS), Phorantha magna (Rb, MS), Spallanzania hesperidarum, Trichopoda pennipes; Sarcophagidae: Ravinia stimulans, Senotainia rubriventris, Sphixapata trilineata; Calliphoridae: Calliphora splendida, Cochliomyia macellaria; Muscidae: Bithoracochaeta leucoprocta, Lispe consanguinea, Neomyia cornicina; Fanniidae: Fannia manicata

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Cercyonis pegala alope, Chlosyne nycteis, Danaus plexippus, Libytheana carinenta (H), Limenitis archippus, Limenitis arthemis astyanax (H), Phyciodes tharos, Speyeria idalia, Vanessa cardui (H); Lycaenidae: Everes comyntas, Lycaena hyllus, Strymon melinus; Pieridae: Colias philodice, Pontia protodice; Papilionidae: Battus philenor, Papilio troilus

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Pholisora catullus, Polites peckius, Polites themistocles

Moths
Sesiidae: Carmenta bassiformis; Ctenuchidae: Cisseps fulvicollis; Arctiidae: Utetheisa bella; Noctuidae: Spragueia leo, Tarachidia candefacta

Beetles
Chrysomelidae: Cryptocephalus insertus; Curculionidae: Odontocorynus scutellum-album; Meloidae: Pyrota insulata, Zonitis vittigera; Rhipiphoridae: Macrosiagon limbata lgf, Rhipiphorus fasciata lgf; Scarabaeidae (Cetonniae): Euphoria sepulcralis, Trichiotinus piger

Plant Bugs
Alydidae: Alydus eurinus; Lygaeidae: Lygaeus turcicus, Oncopeltus fasciatus

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Faunal Associations

The flowering heads attract many kinds of insects, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers, moths, beetles, and plant bugs. These insects usually seek nectar, although some of the bees may collect pollen for their brood nests. The caterpillars of the rare Papaipema eryngii (Rattlesnake Master Borer Moth) bore into the stems and feed on the pith. The coarse foliage and prickly balls of flowers are not popular as a source of food with mammalian herbivores, although they may nibble off the ends of the leaves. Photographic Location
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Eryngium yuccifolium

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).

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Threats

Comments: Highly threatened by land-use conversion and habitat fragmentation, and to a lesser extent by disease or pests, in the Southern Appalachian portion of its range (Southern Appalachian Species Viability Project 2002).

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Pests and potential problems

Lodging has been noted when growing rattlesnake master in a monoculture planting.

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Management

Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

Three source-identified composites of rattlesnake master from northern, central, and southern Iowa have been released by the Elsberry, Missouri Plant Materials Center.

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Environmental concerns

Rattlesnake master is not considered weedy or an invasive species and has not been noted spreading to adjoining areas. Seedlings have not been noted spreading from original plantings, or if they do spread, the rate of spread is not alarming. Rattlesnake master is self-pollinated.

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Reduce weed competition by mowing or using approved herbicides. Burning may be appropriate where plant vigor declines or where invader species threaten native mix stands.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full sun and moist to slightly dry conditions. This plant becomes spindly in shadier conditions, and may topple over while in bloom. The soil can contain significant amounts of loam, sand, clay, or gravel, but the site should not be subject to standing water. This plant is easy to grow, and isn't bothered by foliar disease nor many insect pests. Range & Habitat
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Uses

Rattlesnake master can be used for roadside plantings, prairie restoration, prairie landscaping, wildlife cover, and also in wildflower gardens because of its attractive appearance.

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Wikipedia

Eryngium yuccifolium

Eryngium yuccifolium (Button snake-root, Rattlesnake Master) is a common herbaceous perennial plant, native to the tallgrass prairies of central and eastern North America, from Minnesota east to Ohio and south to Texas and Florida. It grows to 1.8 m tall, with linear leaves 15–100 cm long but only 1–3 cm broad, with bristly or spiny margins and a sharp tip. The flowers are produced in dense apical umbels 1–3 cm diameter, each flower greenish-white or bluish-white, 3–4 mm diameter. When this plant flowers, pollen matures before stigmas become receptive to maximize outcrossing. Rattlesnake master has unusually high seed set (close to 90%).[1]

It gets its name because some Native Americans used its root as an antidote for rattlesnake venom. The scientific name was given because its leaves resemble those of yuccas. Fibers of Rattlesnake Master have also been found as one of the primary materials used in the ancient shoe construction of Midwestern Native Americans.[2]

E. yuccifolium is fairly intolerant of anthropogenic disturbance,[3] but readily re-establishes in prairie restorations.[4][5]

See also[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ Melano Flores, Brenda. 2001. "Reproductive Biology of Eryngium yuccifolium (Apiaceae), a prairie species". Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 128:1-6
  2. ^ http://www.sciencemag.org/content/281/5373/72.long
  3. ^ Swink, Floyd and Gerould Wilhelm. Plants of the Chicago Region. Indiana Academy of Science. 1994
  4. ^ Betz, R. F., Lootens, R. J. & Becker, M. K. (1996) Two decades of prairie restoration at Fermilab Batvia, Illinois. Proceedings of the North American Prairie Conference (ed C. Warwick). St. Charles, Illinois.
  5. ^ Schramm, P. (1990) Prairie Restoration: A twenty-five year perspective on establishment and management. Proceedings of the twelfth North American Prairie conference (eds D. D. Smith & C. A. Jacobs). University of Northern Iowa.
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