Turtlehead is blooming around our streams and reservoirs now. A lovely flower, it’s entertaining, as well. Pinch the sides of the flower and make the “mouth” open and close. Add a little ventriloquism and you’ve got a great act, sure to amuse fellow wildflower enthusiasts!
The Baltimore checkerspot butterfly lays its eggs on turtlehead leaves. According to Jack Sanders in The Secrets of Wildflowers, the best way to find the Baltimore checkerspot is first to locate turtlehead. The butterfly won’t be far away.
Turtleheads are protandric – functioning first as males and then as females. Inside this one’s “mouth,” you can see the anthers arching inside. But the flower is probably already functioning as a female because it’s wide open, allowing bees and other pollinators better access to the nectar and receptive pistil.
Sanders also relates that larvae of some lepidopterans and flies eat turtle seeds. Ichneumon wasps prowl the seedcases in search of victims in which to lay their eggs. The wasp larvae then hatch to eat their hosts from within. Aaaargh!