rattlesnake master

(Eryngium yuccifolium var. yuccifolium)

Conservation Status
rattlesnake master
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

S3 - Vulnerable


Special Concern

This is a common plant of native tallgrass prairies in the eastern United States. Southeastern Minnesota is the northwest extent of its natural range, but very little tallgrass prairie remains in the state. This habitat loss led the Minnesota DNR to list rattlesnake master as a special concern species in 1984.

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACW - Facultative wetland


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


Rattlesnake master is a 16 to 59 tall, erect, long-lived, perennial forb that rises on a clump of grass-like basal leaves and a single stem from a small, close bundle of tuberous roots.

Most of the leaves are basal. Basal leaves are stalkless, broadly linear, 6 to 32 long, and to 1¼ wide. The leaf blades are stiff, parallel-veined, and taper for most of their length to a sharp point at the tip. The upper and lower surfaces are bluish-green, hairless, and strongly covered with a whitish, waxy substance (glaucous). The margins have widely-spaced, spiny or thread-like, forward-pointing teeth. At least a few basal leaves are present at flowering time.

Stem leaves are few. They are wrap around (clasp) the stem at the base but are otherwise similar to basal leaves. They become progressively much smaller as they ascend the stem.

The stem is erect or ascending, ridged, hairless, and strongly glaucous. It is unbranched except just below the inflorescence.

The inflorescence is a spiny head of numerous small, inconspicuous flowers, appearing singly or as branched cluster of several heads, on a long stalk at the end of the stem and each branch. Each branch of the inflorescence is subtended by a single modified leaf (bract). The inflorescence bracts are much smaller than the leaves and have spiny teeth or lobes on the margins. The flower heads are spherical to egg-shaped, to 1 in diameter, and densely packed with numerous white flowers. They are subtended by a whorl of 6 to 10 bracts. These bracts are narrowly egg-shaped, sharply pointed, 5 16 to long, and untoothed or finely toothed.

Each flower is stalkless and subtended by a single grayish-white, ¼ to long, prickly bractlet. There are 5 sepals, 5 petals, 5 stamens, and 2 styles. The sepals are long, fused at the base for most of their length, and separated at the tip into 5 egg-shaped teeth. The petals are white, oblong, and rounded at the tip. The stamens have long white filaments and light brown anthers. The styles are thread-like and protrude well above the corolla. The flowers have a faint honey-like scent that becomes more intense in strong sunlight. In the fall they turn purplish then brown.

The fruit is a brown, to 5 16 long, 2-chambered seedcase (schizocarp). It is oblong in outline, slightly flattened laterally and tapers to a short, prolonged extension (beak) at the tip. It ripens in early September to mid-October and splits into 2 separate seedcases (mericarps), each with a single seed. Each mericarp has 5 angles but is not ribbed, and has ascending, flattened, papery scales attached to the angles.




16 to 59


Flower Color


White to purplish


Similar Species


Moist to slightly dry. Prairies, railroads and abandoned railways. Full sun.




Early July to mid-August


Pests and Diseases




The common name rattlesnake master is derived from its traditional use by Native Americans to treat rattlesnake bite. The plant was also used as a diuretic, a sedative, a pain reliever, a tonic, and for cordage.

Rattlesnake master seed is a frequent ingredient in native prairie seed mixes used in southeastern Minnesota.


Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Apiales (carrots, ivies, and allies)  
  Suborder Apiineae  


Apiaceae (carrot)  
  Subfamily Saniculoideae  
  Tribe Saniculeae  


Eryngium (eryngos)  
  Species Eryngium yuccifolium (rattlesnake master)  

NCBI places the genera Eryngium and Sanicula in the tribe Saniculeae in the the subfamily Apioideae. GRIN places the genera within the same tribe Saniculeae but in the subfamily Saniculoideae. ITIS does not list either the subfamily or the tribe. The APG IV system also places the two genera in the subfamily Saniculoideae. At least two recent molecular DNA studies of the subfamily Saniculeae maintain the placement of both genera within the subfamily Saniculoideae. No discussion of moving the genera could be found. If the placement in the subfamily Apioideae is an error, that error is repeated by Wikipedia on both Eryngium and Sanicula pages.


Subordinate Taxa








Common Names


button eryngo

button snakeroot

northern rattlesnake master

rattlesnake master
















Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



A small, often secondary bract within an inflorescence; a bract that is borne on a petiole instead of subtending it; bracteole.



Describing a leaf that wholly or partly surrounds the stem but does not fuse at the base.



On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.



Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



The split, usually one-seeded portion of a dry, multi-seeded fruit.



A dry fruit formed from a compound ovary that splits into two or more parts (mericarps) at maturity.

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Robert Briggs



    rattlesnake master      

Kirk Nelson


Dried out

    rattlesnake master      

Lebanon Hills Regional Park

    rattlesnake master   rattlesnake master  
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos


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Flower head

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  Eryngium yuccifolium RATTLESNAKE MASTER
Frank Mayfield
  Eryngium yuccifolium RATTLESNAKE MASTER  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Rattlesnake Master - Eryngium yuccifolium as companion plant at Ion Exchange

Uploaded on Aug 7, 2011

Earthyman views Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) in bloom in companion perennial planting at Ion Exchange native seed and plant nursery in northeast Iowa. http://www.ionxchange.com

  Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium (part 1)

Uploaded on Jul 18, 2010

Not what I would call a "good" nectar plant, but the pollinators that visit it are almost unique to the plant. A Mud Dauber and a Scoliid Wasp are featured in the video. This is what four plants on their first year from the nursery look like. I read the can get much larger and have even more flowers on them.

  Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium (part 2)

Uploaded on Jul 18, 2010

A closer look at a Scoliid Wasp. These wasps dig holes in the lawn to lay eggs in beetle grubs that eat the roots to grass plants.

  Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium (part 3)

Uploaded on Jul 20, 2010

This plant is a Wasp magnet. Many of whom are specialized predators to grubs, spiders, and assorted other garden insects.

  Dragon fly dancing with rattlesnake master.

Published on Jul 10, 2013

Grant Park Music Festival orchestra rehearsing from the Pritzker Pavilion stage while Mariani arborists prune the Lurie Garden's Shoulder Hedge. Dragon fly and rattlesnake master in foreground.




Visitor Sightings

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  Robert Briggs

Location: Spring Lake Park Reserve


rattlesnake master  
  Kirk Nelson

Location: Lebanon Hills Regional Park

dried out

rattlesnake master  
  Kirk Nelson

Location: Lebanon Hills Regional Park

I noticed only the one plant, but I did not do a thorough examination of the surrounding area.  Another area of the park has been part of a prairie restoration (near the equestrian trailhead); maybe this plant has something to do with that.

rattlesnake master  
  David Ayer

Location: Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings






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