Earlier this month, while searching the riverbank for showy flowers, I stumbled across two new-to-me flowering plants. Quite a surprise, considering how many species I’ve catalogued in the gorge over the past seven years.
The first was growing among cardinal flowers. I knew right away that it was in the mint family, and it didn’t take long to key out once I got home. Scutellaria lateriflora, aka mad-dog skullcap, is a medium-height forb of wet, sunny areas.
It appears to be one of the most widespread species of Scutellaria, occurring in almost all of North America except for the desert West and parts of western and northern Canada. The flowers are tiny, less than one centimeter long, and are borne on terminal and axillary racemes*.
The other find was ditch stonecrop, Penthorum sedoides. Older wildflower guides place this species in the stonecrop family (Crassulaceae), and very old guides place it in the Saxifragaceae; currently it is placed in a family of it’s own, Penthoraceae, with only one other species (P. chinense) and no other genera.
It does look like our native woodland stonecrop, but the plants aren’t succulent, and they prefer wet soils (unlike woodland stonecrop, which likes dry soils)**.
Ditch stonecrop ranges from Quebec to Florida, going west into the prairie; also one small area along the Oregon/Washington border, and maybe British Columbia. Probably it was introduced in these Pacific Northwest areas.
*Illinois Wildflowers Dr. John Hilty
**Wildflowers of the Atlantic Southeast Laura Cotterman, Damon Waitt, and Alan Weakley (Timber Press, 2019)