Habit: an every green perennial with tall flowering stems and interesting foliage. Rattlesnake plantain grows from rhizomes and fibrous thick roots. Its leaves are oblong, about 7 inches long and all basal, arranged in a large rosette. The dark green color of the foliage is mottled or striped along thick midveins, resembling the leathery skin of a reptile. Flower spikes measure 5-17 inches tall and bear numerous, small waxy-white blossoms. Petals and sepals are cream-colored to greenish; one of the sepals forms a hood above the corolla. Fruits are erect capsules containing many tiny seeds. Flowers bloom from mid to late summer.
Ecology: commonly found in shady, moist coniferous forests, above decomposing leaves, mosses or hummus rich locations, from low to mid elevations. It is native of North America, from Alaska and most of Canada, to California and New Mexico in the south, and east to the Dakotas and the Great Lakes.
Growing conditions: this species thrives in full to partial shade, or in the dappled light of deep woods. Soils should be moist, well-drained, and rich in organic matter. Goodyera oblongifolia is a rhizomatous orchid, but unlike other orchids, it is relatively slow growing. It is an ideal plant for a woodland garden or trail.
The leathery snake-like leaves of this species have inspired different popular myths among indigenous people and among early settlers of the west as well. Northwest coast natives used the plants as a luck charm, while the settlers believed that this plant was an antidote for snake bites. Native American children also found a use for the plants, they rubbed the leaves until the top and bottom layers separated and then blew them up like a balloon.