A typical tallgrass prairie plant, Eryngium yuccifolium, is commonly known as rattlesnake-master or button snake-root. It grows in rocky woods, prairies, and meadows. Most parsley/carrots (Apiaceae) have finely cut foliage and domed umbels of flowers. On the other hand, the rattlesnake master has leaves with parallel veins, bristly edges, sword shapes, medium green, resembling yuccas (lily family), and tiny, stemless white flowers in globular heads shaped like thistles.
Typically 3-4 feet tall from the centers of the rosettes, the flower heads appear in branched clusters at the top of smooth, stiff stems. The flower heads are covered with whitish, pointed bracts. Butterflies and other insects love the blooms.
This plant grows on average in dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Prefers dryish, sandy soils—self-seeds in optimum growing conditions. Plants open up and sprawl if grown in overly fertile soils or less than full sun. This tap-rooted plant transplants poorly and is best left undisturbed once established.
The common name "rattlesnake master" is attributed to early European pioneers erroneously believing the plant to be an antidote for rattlesnake venom based upon Native Americans' various medicinal uses of the plant. The species name yuccifolium "yucca-leaved" was given because its leaves resemble those of yuccas.
Light: Full Sun, Part Shade
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Origin: North America