Chelone lyonii
Chelone obliqua

Chelone is a genus of four[1] species of perennial herbaceous plants native to eastern North America.[1][2] They all have similarly shaped flowers (which led to the name turtlehead due to their resemblance to the head of a turtle), which vary in color from white to red, purple or pink.[1] Chelone cuthbertii, C. glabra, and C. lyonii are diploid and C. obliqua is either tetraploid or hexaploid, depending on their slight differences in morphology and localities.[1]


Chelone is derived from Greek meaning ‘turtle-like’, in reference to its turtle head-shaped corollas.[3]

Relationships to other plants

The closest relative of Chelone is Nothochelone from western North America.[1] [3] [6] Nothochelone nemerosa is the species most closely related to the genus [3] [6]. Chelone is more closely related to it than to other members of the family such as snapdragons, plantains, and foxglove.[4]


Chelone glabra is the most widely distributed species of the genus: from Georgia to Newfoundland and from Mississippi to Manitoba;[5] [5] [6] the other three are found in more restricted areas.

Chelone cuthbertii is found in two areas: the Blue Ridge of North Carolina and the coastal plain of Virginia.[1] [5] [6]

Chelone lyonii is found in the Blue Ridge of Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.[1] [5] [6]

Chelone obliqua is found as tetraploids in the Blue Ridge, or hexaploids in two areas: Tennessee to Arkansas and Michigan, or the Atlantic coastal plain from South Carolina to Maryland.[1] [5] [6]

The relationship between the different populations is complicated and it appears that C. obliqua in fact has arisen several times from diploid ancestors of the other three species.[1] [5] [6] The four species seem to have diverged recently.[1] [5] [6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Allan D. Nelson; Wayne J. Elisens (1999). "Polyploid evolution and biogeography in Chelone (Scrophulariaceae): morphological and isozyme evidence". American Journal of Botany. 86 (10). Botanical Society of America: 1487–1501. doi:10.2307/2656929. JSTOR 2656929. PMID 10523288.
  2. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Chelone". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team.
  3. ^ Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521866453 (hardback), ISBN 9780521685535 (paperback). pp 103, 276
  4. ^ Olmstead, R. G.; dePamphilis, C. W.; Wolfe, A. D.; Young, N. D.; Elisons, W. J. & Reeves P. A. (2001). "Disintegration of the Scrophulariaceae". American Journal of Botany. 88 (2). Botanical Society of America: 348–361. doi:10.2307/2657024. JSTOR 2657024. PMID 11222255.
  5. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Chelone glabra". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team.
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