Common Name: Rattlesnake Master
Botanical Name: Eryngium yuccifolium
Bloom Time: June-August.
Bloom Description: The tiny, hazy-white flowers are tightly packed into a globular head. Flowers resemble thistle blooms in clusters atop stiff stems to 3-4 feet tall.
Leaf Type: The bluish-green leaves are simple and narrow and grow up to 2’ tall. Soft spines grow along the margins of the leaf and resemble a yucca plant; hence the species name “yuccifolium”.
Garden Uses: This perennial is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Prefers dryish, sandy soils. Self-seeds in optimum growing conditions. Plants tend to open up and sprawl if grown in overly fertile soils or in anything less than full sun. This is a tap-rooted plant which transplants poorly and is best left undisturbed once established.
Wildlife Benefits: Flowers provide nectar for many pollinators. The coarse foliage and prickly balls of flowers are not attractive to mammalian herbivores, but caterpillars of the rare rattlesnake master borer moth bore into stems and feed on the pith.
Location: Planted on East Terrace and Skyspace Meadow.
Learn more about the art, plants, and other features on the museum’s beautiful grounds: https://crystalbridges.org/nature/
RATTLESNAKE MASTER TRANSCRIPT
NARRATOR: The rattlesnake master gets its name from its traditional use as an antidote to snakebite. Ethnobotanist, Justin Nolan enumerates some of the many additional uses for the spiky native plant.
JUSTIN NOLAN: Rattlesnake master, Eryngium yuccifolium. This is a member of the carrot family. It’s a well known North American perennial, practically famous for its use as an antidote against poisonous snake bites. This prairie tallgrass native is readily distinguished by its spiky, bristly, pale greenish flower.
In Native American pharmacology, rattlesnake master has broader use value than the name suggests. For example, an infusion of the root was used to treat kidney trouble and to cleanse the system more generally. Many ethnobotanical reports stem from the Cherokees and the Choctaws who were particularly cognizant of the healing powers of this native perennial. They were among the early discoverers of rattlesnake master’s capacity to counteract poisonous venoms in addition to serving as a tooth ache remedy and as both a natural stimulant and a sedative. The fibers of rattlesnake master are very pro durable. They provided raw materials in the construction of Native American clothing and textiles.