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Ravenel’s Swamp Rattlesnake Master

I just love this plant! I think it’s the color and texture that I find so attractive. The silvery-grey, spiky foliage contrasts with rounded bright blue flower heads. Wherever it is in the garden, it stands out and makes a definite statement. This native perennial grows to about 30″ high with multiple branching stems. In nature, it is found in swampy wetlands, and it grows beautifully in our Carnivorous Plant Exhibit at the South Carolina Botanical Garden (SCBG).  But this plant is versatile. It is also at home in soils with average moisture; it is planted near the SCBG Visitor Center on top of a well-drained hill. This variety is rare and increasingly threatened by development in its natural range. It is, however, now available in the nursery trade.

Ravenel's Swamp Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium aquaticum var ravenelii). Sue Watts, ©2021, Clemson University

Ravenel’s Swamp Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium aquaticum var ravenelii).
Sue Watts, ©2021, Clemson University

The genus Eryngium is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae) and is globally widespread. In many cultures, this genus has been used as food and medicine. In North America, the common name rattlesnake master indicates strong associations with the creature of the same name. The Choctaw and Cherokee used this plant to counteract snake bites, along with other medicinal uses.

Eryngium is also a great pollinator plant. Butterflies of all types visit for nectar, as do bees, wasps, and flies. The pollen is eaten by soldier beetles, a gardener’s friend whose larva eat the eggs and larva of many garden pests. For more information about pollinator plants, see HGIC 1727, Pollinator Gardening.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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