Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Rattlesnake-master - Eryngium yuccifolium   Michaux
Members of Apiaceae:
Members of Eryngium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Apiales » Family Apiaceae
DistributionFound over most of the state, but seemingly absent from the northern Mountains, and also from the northeastern Coastal Plain.

This is a widespread Midwestern and Southern species, ranging from NJ and MN, south to southern FL and central TX.
AbundanceGenerally uncommon to infrequent in the main part of its range, but rare in much of the central and northwestern Coastal Plain. Nowhere reasonably common in the state. Note that one of the varieties -- var. synchaetum -- is a Watch List taxon, as identified by the NCNHP.
HabitatThis species has a wide array of habitats in the state, but as it prefers somewhat dry to mesic circumneutral soil, it is somewhat limited in where it can grow. It is found in glades and barrens, wooded borders, powerline clearings, some pine savannas and flatwoods, and other sunny to partly sunny sites -- generally with some semblance of a prairie-like habitat.
PhenologyBlooms from June to August, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a very striking plant, bound to catch attention by anyone, owing to its stiff and spiny-looking appearance. It is a robust herb, reaching 2.5-3 feet tall, with an unbranched stem except in the upper portions. The basal and stem leaves are rather similar; they are thick, coriaceous, strap-like and about 1-1.5 feet long but only about 1-2 inches wide, with numerous "spines" along the margins. The inflorescence is cymose, in a somewhat flat-topped and open cluster, composed of numerous globose umbellets, of tiny white flowers. Each of these "balls" is about 2/3-inch across. In addition to the white balls, the branches tend to be glaucous or hoary, whitened in color. The other Eryngium species in the state have blue flowers. Thankfully, it is widespread across the state and somewhat in habitats, but it is never routinely found, always a pleasure to find and observe.
Taxonomic CommentsThere are two varieties in the state; the more southerly var. synchaetum is found only in the southern Coastal Plain, north to Robeson and Onslow counties; the nominate var. yuccifolium is somewhat statewide.

Other Common Name(s)Button Eryngo. Note that several other members of the genus are also called as Rattlesnake-master, or "xxxxxxx Rattlesnake-master", but this species is universally named as Rattlesnake-master, without a modifier name.
State RankS5 [S4S5]
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieWeymouth Woods, late June 2010. MoorePhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieUwharrie NF, Lomax Longleaf South, late June 2021.
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