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Calathea crotalifera S. Watson

Rattlesnake plant

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassLiliopsidaMonocots (plants with a single seed leaf); includes the lily family
SubclassZingiberidaeGingers and related plants
OrderZingiberalesGinger, cardamom, turmeric, galangal, myoga, bananas, arrowroot, and others
FamilyMarantaceaeThe arrowroot or “prayer plant” family, about 530 species of tropical flowering plants

About plant names...

The rattlesnake plant’s flowerlike yellow spike looks a great deal like a rattler’s tail. The plants are native to regions between Nicaragua and Ecuador. It is naturalized in Hawai‘i now. I see this plant variously called Calathea crotalifera S. Watson, Calathea insignis, and Calathea lancifolia. But these plants differ significantly, and only C. crotalifera has the distinctive yellow rattler flowerheads.

Identification: The yellow spike that is this plant’s namesake is a set of bracts (modified leaves)—the true flowers are small and purple, poking out of the sides of the leaves.

Online References:

Calathea crotalifera on Wikimedia Commons

Calathea crotalifera on Forest and Kim Starr’s Starr Environmental site

Calathea crotalifera on Hawaiian Plants and Tropical Flowers

Calathea crotalifera on the USDA Plants Database

Calathea crotalifera on SEINet—the Southwest Environmental Information Network


Calathea crotalifera description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Calathea crotalifera (rattlesnake plant)

8/21/2004 · Hawaii Botanical Gardens, Hawaii


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