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Eryngium yuccifolium – Rattlesnake Master

Categories:Deer Resistant Drought Tolerant Native Plants Perennials

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Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) is a native perennial with the coolest name in gardening.

As the name implies, rattlesnake master is a tough customer, at home in tough conditions. Eryngium yuccifolium is a plant that likes sun and lots of it. Dryish soils are perfect, and it is a perfect candidate for xeric gardens.

Be patient with rattlesnake master as it may take it a while to really get going. When I first started planting Eryngium yuccifolium, I was underwhelmed the first year or two. As it becomes established, rattlesnake master may wow you.

Eryngium yuccifolium earned its common name because native Americans used the roots as anti-venom for snake bites. According to the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology, rattlesnake master may be a viable candidate for treating bites of venomous snakes of North America.

While it may not look the part, rattlesnake master is an excellent source of pollen for bees and other insects.

The incredible seedheads show their best in mass. If you have the space plant Eryngium yuccifolium in groups. Plant it a couple of feet apart and it will slowly colonize the immediate area via self-seeding. Rattlesnake master is not an aggressive grower.

Avoid planting Eryngium yuccifolium in the shade. Also avoid rich soils with lots of moisture, as these conditions can lead to floppy stems. When grown in full sun, stems can rise a few feet.

Grow rattlesnake master in the garden where the stems can grow strong: full sun, average to poor soil, and average to dry moisture.

Given the rough and tumble nature of Eryngium yuccifolium, staking would be an aesthetic blunder. Peonies might be acceptable if staked, but rattlesnake master is native to the prairies and wild.

rattlesnake master
Rattlesnake master

It is attractive to a wide range of insects, but mammals tend to leave it alone. The seed heads are coarse.

Avoid planting Eryngium yuccifolium in the shade. Also avoid rich soils with lots of moisture, as these conditions can lead to floppy stems. When grown in full sun, stems can rise a few feet. Rattlesnake master is related to carrots and has a deep taproot. It does not transplant well at all. Plant it where you are going to leave it.

If you give rattlesnake master full sun it can grow just about anywhere. It can tolerate clay soils, dry conditions, eroded areas, poor soils, and on and on.

Grow rattlesnake master in the garden where the stems can grow strong: full sun, average to poor soil, and average to dry moisture.

Given the rough and tumble nature of Eryngium yuccifolium, staking would be an aesthetic blunder. Peonies might be acceptable if staked, but rattlesnake master is native to the prairies and wild. If you give rattlesnake master adequate sun, you shouldn’t have to stake it.

Deer will not bother it. The seedheads, reminiscent of sweet gum balls, are one of the least appetizing things in the landscape. The unpalatable nature of rattlesnake master doesn’t just protect it from deer. Livestock will not graze it either. In addition to the spiky seedheads, the leaves have spines that making a walk through these plants an unpleasant experience. For this reason, do not plant rattlesnake master in areas you walk through regularly.

In addition to being used to treat snakebites, the leaves were used in shoe construction by native Americans.

It is attractive to a wide range of insects, but mammals tend to leave it alone. The seed heads are coarse.

Height: basal leaves to 2 feet or so, stems with seed pods to 4′-5′. Starts small. Plant in mass so plants may lean against each other.

In addition to being used to treat snakebites, the leaves were used in shoe construction by native Americans. Today, self-sufficient types use the strong fibers of the leaves for making rope.

More information:
Winter hardiness zones: 3-8

Native Distribution:

Plant TypePerennial
NativeYes
ExposureSun
Flower ColorGreen
Fall colorinsignificant
Water requirementsdrought tolerant, average
Soil qualitywell-drained, average, poor
Suggested use(s)cottage gardens, meadows, mixed borders/perennial beds, native collections, naturalized, xeric gardens
Hardiness zone(s)3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
Typeherbaceous perennial
Nativeyes
Invasiveno
Deer resistantyes
Deciduous or evergreendeciduous
Flower colorgreen
Bloom periodsummer
Exposurefull sun
Genus/speciesEryngium yuccifolium
Common name(s)rattlesnake master, button snakeroot, beargrass
Of noteeasy to grow in full sun, xeric garden candidate, extremely tough

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