A herbaceous species of plant native to North America. Its native range extends from Georgia to Newfoundland and Labrador and from Mississippi to Manitoba. Its common name comes from the appearance of its flower petals, which resemble the head of a tortoise. In fact, in Greek, chelone means “tortoise” and was the name of a nymph who refused to attend the wedding of Zeus and was turned into a turtle as punishment. Its natural habitat is wet areas, such as riparian forests and swamps.
Its classification at the family level has in the past been controversial, but as a result of DNA sequence studies, it is now regarded as belonging to family Plantaginaceae (the plantain family). In early taxonomic treatments the species was divided into a number of subspecific categories but more recent studies indicate no morphological or genetic basis for these taxonomic categories.