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TURTLEHEAD Chelona glabra

Today let us reflect on Psalm 119:27 “Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, so I will meditate on Thy wonders.” The Genesis account of creation profoundly states mankind is made in the image of God. Yet no two of us are identical. Each of us are influenced by our environment in unique ways. We view the world and respond to the Creator in unique ways conditioned by scores of influences and personal experiences.

The wildflower world was planned by God to remind us of the vast differences that exist about us. We accept that diversity in nature but seem to struggle with diversity among our fellow humans. To be made in the image of God means the capacity to discern right from wrong, to feel pangs of guilt, to turn back and find forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Then we soar to the full image of God as we freely worship and commune with our Creator.

A pastor friend told of his mother taking him aside one day as a lad. She strictly rebuked him for something he said about another boy. “Son, he was made in the image of God, just as you were. That means God loves him as much as He loves you. When you put him down you are insulting God.” The basis of all the precepts of God is this profound truth.

TURTLEHEAD

Chelona glabra

Turtlehead can be a pest in a wet season because it may pop up everywhere we don’t want it. It is common in the sense that it is not fussy about where it grows. It may be found in almost every county throughout the southeastern U.S., but is not widely common like asters, dandelions or kudzu. You have to seek it out, so allow me to give you some clues to aid your search.

Once you’ve seen this wildflower you’ll never forget it. The shape of the bloom looks like a turtle’s head or a snake’s head. Thus its other common name is snakehead. Among herbalists it is called turtlebloom, and cherlona (a Greek word meaning “tortoise.”)

Turtlehead flowers are white. They have only two lips but the body of the flower looks swollen. The upper lip extends slightly over the lower lip. The flowers appear in only one place, in clusters at the top of the single stem. Though there may be a dozen buds, only two or three blooms are open at the same time.

Turtlehead is in the Snapdragon Family as are mullein and beardtongue.

The leaves occur as opposite pairs. They are toothed and narrow as sketched. The leaf stem (petiole) is about 1/2 inch long. The leaves that are about midway between the ground and the blossoms are the largest.

The habitat for this plant is hard to find when the weather is dry. The turtlehead grows to about 5 feet high and prefers moist pastures, stream banks or amid woods moistened by spring water.

Medicinally, turtlehead is used today in concoctions for indigestion. An ointment of turtlehead is sold as a substitute for Preparation H.

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Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit The Sketching Pad in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.

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