Eryngium yuccifolium, commonly known as button snake-root or rattlesnake master, is an evergreen perennial forb native to Missouri. Part of the tallgrass prairies, the plants occur in rocky woods, glades, and prairies. They mostly grow in certain regions of North America, Texas, Florida, Minnesota and Ohio.
The rattlesnake master is hermaphrodite and produces greenish-white flowers from July to September. However, when not flowering, the plants form a rosette of sword-shaped, fibrous leaves that resemble those of yucca, hence the name.
Eryngium yuccifolium can’t grow in anything less than full sun and extremely fertile soil. Here are some quick facts about the rattlesnake master.
|Common Name(s):||Rattlesnake Master, Button Eryngo, Button Snakeroot, Beargrass, Bear’s Grass|
|Scientific Name||Eryngium yuccifolium|
|Height & Spread:||2-5′ tall and 2′ wide|
|Pests & Diseases:||Pest resistant and are unpalatable to deer and other herbivores|
The plant is called rattlesnake because some Native Americans used the root as a medicine to treat rattlesnake bites. The root system contains a central taproot that is surrounded by fleshy, fibrous roots.
The leaves are narrow, long, and stiff with sharp tips, 5-39″ inches (15-100cm) long. The greenish-white flowers are stemless, dainty, and tightly packed into globular-shaped flower heads that resemble thistles. The flower heads further extend into white, pointed bracts.
Beneath each white flower is a green, spiny bract, and underneath the flower clusters are tiny rosettes of spiky bracts. Rattlesnake master belongs to the family of Apiaceae, which is known for its finely cut foliage that’s ideal for prairie restorations for gardens and landscapes.
Similar Species to Eryngium Yuccifolium
Rattlesnake master is one of the most popular varieties of the Apiaceae family. The second most common variety is called Eryngium synchaetum. However, the latter has much narrower leaves and is native to the moist pine savannas of the coastal regions of North Carolina all the way to Florida. It also produces thick clusters of bristles down the leaf margins. Unlike rattlesnake master, this variety grows well in extremely moist conditions.
Rattlesnake Master Care
With thick rosettes and dense, spiny flowers, this evergreen perennial prefers dryish, sandy, and well-drained soils and is native to several regions in the United States. The plants can grow up to 24-60 inches (60-152 cm) and self-seeds. It doesn’t tolerate disturbances well, but is a staple of prairie restorations due to how quickly it establishes itself.
All in all, rattlesnake master is a low-maintenance, problem-free plant. Here’s everything you need to know about its care and maintenance.
Light & Temperature
The plants can’t survive in anything less than full sun. It can survive in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9. Make sure to keep them in a well-lit spot in your garden.
Water & Humidity
The plants contain a large rootstock that helps the plant survive during dry, hot months. Their watering needs are dry to medium as they can’t tolerate soils with standing water. Watering is necessary once a week when the plants are young and once or twice a month once they are established.
Rattlesnake master thrives well in dry to medium, well-drained soils. However, it prefers dryish, sandy soil and tends to sprawl when grown in overly fertile soil. It’s tolerant of clay soil, shallow rocky soil, loamy soil, and dry soil. The ideal pH is slightly acidic to slightly alkaline.
The plants don’t require heavy fertilizers as the presence of nitrogen can encourage weed competition. Therefore, only fertilize if the soil indicates a severe deficiency.
Since these plants have tap roots, they transplant poorly. Therefore, once established, it’s best to leave them undisturbed in prairies, or direct sow them to avoid the need to transplant at all.
If you want to grow more plants for your garden, then the rattlesnake master can be easily propagated through by division. Simply divide the mature plants in fall or spring. Place the division in separate 4″ inch containers filled with potting mix and keep in a shaded area.
Cover them with plastic bags to maintain humidity levels. Once new growth appears, remove the plastic, and carefully transplant them to permanent, well-lit locations in the garden.
The plant can sprawl quickly in rich, fertile soil, which provides an interesting landscape for winters. Prune them once the flowering season is over. Simply cut back the stems of the white flowers or leave them as seed-heads that look extremely attractive during the colder months.
Button snake-root is generally problem-free and is ideal for prairie restorations, ground cover gardens, beds, and borders. Let’s have a quick look at some growing problems.
Rattlesnake master plant can’t tolerate overly moist soil. It quickly develops root rot. For this reason, keep the hydration minimal. Make sure watering only takes place in the morning so the soil can dry completely during the day.
Although the plant can tolerate high winds, it is vulnerable to lodging, where stems bend over and mat on the ground. If you’re planting it in coastal regions where conditions can be harsh, keep it in a well-protected spot.
The rosette of leaves and flowers is resistant to pests and unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.
Eryngium yuccifolium is susceptible to root rot and powdery mildew. As mentioned previously, limit watering if the leaves start to brown. If left untreated, root rot can kill the entire plant. Inspect the plant carefully and cut the damaged area to save the healthy roots and stems.
For powdery mildew, avoid overhead watering as it contributes to humidity. Prune them as soon as you spot over-crowding to encourage air circulation.
Q. What is rattlesnake master plant traditionally used for?
The shoots and roots of the plant can be cooked and eaten. They’re also used to protect against snake bites and illnesses like vomiting, fever, and cough.
Q. Where should I keep rattlesnake master plant in my garden?
The plants should be kept under bright but indirect sunlight, preferably south-facing or east-facing. Direct exposure should be avoided as it can shrivel the leaves.
Q. Does the rattlesnake master self-pollinate?
Yes, the plant contains both the female and male organs and self-pollinates.