All About Lopseed


Phryma leptostachya




Here’s another of those summertime woodland plants that has tiny flowers (like vervain, enchanter’s nightshade, honewort).  The plant itself can grow to three feet tall, with leaves about five inches long and an inflorescence about one foot long, but the individual flowers are only about a quarter inch long.

From a distance the flowers appear pinkish; once you get up close, you can see that the three lower lobes are white, with a pinkish upper lobe and three pink-purple teeth on the top part of the calyx.



closeup of flower; it looks very Art Deco to me







the distinctive toothed calyx





the new flower spike; note that the flower buds are lying upright along the stem






the flowers, arranged on the stem in opposing pairs, stand out at a 90 degree angle



When the flowers are finished and starting to form their single seed each, they lie flat along the stem – hence the name “lopseed”.




spent flowers flopping down along the stem





The specific epithet is derived from the Latin “lepto”, meaning thin, fine, slight, and “stachys”, meaning ear of grain.

Once by itself in its own family, lopseed was later placed into the verbena family (Verbenaceae).  Recent molecular phylogenetic* studies have placed it back in Phrymaceae, with about 209 other species to keep it company.

While researching, I found this description from a text published in 1847:

“I. PHEYM A Zfnn. aman. 3 p. 19et gen. n. 738 . Garin, defrucl. 1 p. 3 6 3 I. 7fl. Lam. illuslr. t. 516 , non Forsh. — Leptostachy a Milch. gen. 11 . Calyx tubulosus, 5-nervis, bilabiatus, labiis post anthesin ronniventibus , superiore tripartito laciniis subulatis apice reduncis, inferiore brevissimo bifido. Corollas tubo labium calycis superius acquante, limbo bilabiato, labio superiore emarginato, inferiore majore trilobo , fauce nuda. Stamina inclusa. Ovarium oblongum. Stylus filiformis; stigma brevi ter bifidum , cruribus anguste lamellaribus. Caryopsis calyce inclusa; pericarpio membranaceo , 5-nervi, stylo persistente terminato, semini adnato. Semen cavitatemi pericarpii omnino implens. Reliqua ut in charactere ordinis. — Genus slructurà et patria perinsigne , a nonnullis cum Priva, maxime alieno, confusimi, fructu jam a Gasrlnero eximie explorato.”  [Digital Library]

Sadly, I don’t read Latin, though I’m good enough with cognates to get parts of it.

Lopseed is found from the Great Plains east to the Atlantic, in the United States and Canada, and also in California.  It is considered possibly extirpated in Maine.


*phylogeny is the evolutionary history of an organism
in molecular phylogeny DNA sequences are analyzed to determine evolutionary relationships among organisms

2 thoughts on “All About Lopseed

  1. Pingback: Another One Missed | Elizabeth's Wildflower Blog

  2. Pingback: I Blame the Ants | Elizabeth's Wildflower Blog

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