Found Again!

It was raining, and the forecast said rain all week, but then there was a window of a few hours between downpours. Thinking about the plants that might be Scutellaria nervosa, I decided to take the camera on a quick hike to the site and check. I was sure they wouldn’t be flowering yet, since a week before they had just the tiniest little buds on them.

I was wrong: they were already flowering. But, I was right: they are S. nervosa!

Veiny skullcap is one of ten Scutellaria species found in Maryland. All are native, and half of them are on the RTE list (veiny is ranked S1S2). The species is globally secure; the only other jurisdiction listing it is Michigan, where it’s threatened. Its native range is more or less the Ohio River basin and somewhat east of that into the mid-Atlantic states.

This is a slender forb growing to about a foot tall, with a single stem. The lower stem leaves are ovate and dentate, and may have short petioles, while the upper leaves are elliptical, less dentate or almost entire, and sessile. The upper leaf surfaces are lightly covered in hairs, and the margins are more densely hairy.

The light blue, pendant flowers are borne in pairs in the upper leaf axils. They aren’t very showy, and sometimes they hide under the leaves, so they’re easy to miss.

If you find veiny skullcap in Maryland please post in the comments section! We have very few records for this species.

Found Again?

I took this picture four years ago when still fairly new to photography, learning to use a new lens (105mm macro) and not sure what I was doing. Lying on my belly to get some close-up shots of miniscule blossoms on other plants, I happened to see these little pendant blue flowers and shot them, too. I had no idea what the plants were.

Later at home I keyed them out to veiny skullcap (Scutellaria nervosa). And then I learned that the species was listed S1 and endangered in Maryland!

Currently it’s listed S1/S2 endangered, with a status change to threatened pending. According to the Maryland DNR,

S1: Critically Imperiled/Highly State Rare—At very high risk of extinction or extirpation due to very restricted range, very few populations or occurrences, very steep declines, very severe threats, or other factors. Typically occurring in five or fewer populations.

S2: Imperiled/State Rare—At high risk of extinction or extirpation due to restricted range, few populations or occurrences, steep declines, severe threats, or other factors. Typically occurring in 6-20 populations.

Endangered: A species whose continued existence as a viable component of Maryland’s flora is determined to be in jeopardy.

I went back as soon as I could to get better pictures, but couldn’t find the plants, despite knowing exactly where to look (geotagged with iPhone). And I’ve hunted for them every year since, but have never found them.

Until a few days ago.

I won’t be positive until they bloom, but the appearance of the leaves and stem, coupled with flower bud location (in the upper leaf axils), leaves little doubt.

Fingers crossed.


Continuing with pretty pictures during this cold season. It’s a thin line between blue and purple. Color is a continuum. Color is in the eye of the beholder. If some of these look more blue or pink than purple, well, c’est la vie.

Triodanis perfoliata (Venus’ looking glass; Campanulaceae)

Look for this annual forb growing in rocky places where there isn’t much competition from other plants. It generally blooms from about mid May into early June here in the Maryland piedmont.

Clinopodium vulgare (wild basil; Lamiaceae)

A perennial forb with circumboreal distribution. Look for the flowers in the height of summer.



Cunila origanoides (common dittany; Lamiaceae)

A perennial native to North America, and found mostly in the mid West and mid Atlantic. It blooms in late summer.


Elephantopus caroliniana (Carolina elephant’s foot; Asteraceae)

A rather weedy-looking plant with a fascinating inflorescence. Click on the picture and look closely; you’ll see that this is actually four disk flowers, each with a five-lobed corolla. The species is native to the southeastern US (Maryland is almost as far north as it goes). It blooms in late summer.


Eutrochium purpureum (sweet joe-pye weed; Asteraceae).

The joe-pye weeds (formerly Eupatorium species) are perennials that love wet places, but this particular species tolerates drier soils and is a great native for the home garden, with dramatic heads of colorful flowers towering above most other forbs. And it attracts butterflies. Blooms in late summer.

Mentha arvensis (field mint; Lamiaceae)

Another mint-family plant with circumboreal distribution. Another late-summer bloomer.



Mimulus alatus (winged monkeyflower; Phrymaceae)

Watch for this wetland plant and its almost identical cousin M. ringens var. ringens (Allegheny monkeyflower) blooming in early to mid summer.


Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot; Lamiaceae)

The mint family sure is represented well here. Look for it in mid summer, possibly covered in bees and butterflies.


Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox, wild blue phlox; Polemoniaceae)

As you can see this flower ranges from almost white through lighter and stronger shades of blue and purple. They bloom at about the same time as Virginia bluebells. Bluebells grow in the floodplain while this phlox grows just upland of the floodplain, in still moist (but not wet) woodland soils.

Physostegia virginiana (obedient plant; Lamiaceae)

Yet another mint family mid summer bloomer. Watch for it on rocky outcrops and gravel bars in the Potomac.





Ruellia caroliniensis (hairy wild petunia; Acanthaceae)

In Maryland this species is found mostly in the Coastal Plain; in the piedmont it’s restricted to a few sites near the Potomac River (as far as I know – please leave a comment if you know otherwise). Watch for it in late spring and early summer.

Trichostema dichotomum (forked bluecurls; Lamiaceae)

Blue or purple, or splitting the difference? Whatever. This is a most striking plant, one of those OMG finds. Well it was for me, anyway. What a lurid color. Late summer, dry soils, open areas. Yow.

Verbena hastata (blue vervain, swamp verbena, Verbenaceae)

As one of the common names suggests, you’ll find this in wetlands, blooming anywhere from late June to mid August. This is an extreme closeup; the plants are rather tall but the inflorescences rather small.



Vernonia noveboracensis (New York ironweed; Asteraceae)

All ray flowers with strongly exserted stigmas, no disk flowers. Very tall plant, wispy appearance. Likes wet soils. Blooms in mid to late summer.


Viola palmata (early blue violet, three-loved violet; Violaceae)

Violet taxonomy is in flux, and violet species can be difficult to differentiate. This one is relatively easy because of the unusual leaf shape, although even that can be highly variable. Look for it in mid spring in drier woodlands.

Blue Helmets

With a few notable exceptions (like prickly pear and the S1 plant I keep mentioning), there isn’t much blooming now in the Potomac Gorge. In the past week I’ve see a few long-leaved summer bluets and Venus’ pride, various Erigerons, and this: hairy skullcap (Scutellaria elliptica, Lamiaceae).

It’s one of nine species of skullcaps known in the Maryland piedmont, and the only one I see regularly. Look for it in dry, rocky woodland areas. This one was right along the towpath, and it may be the most perfectly-formed inflorescence I’ve ever seen on this species.


Lamiaceous Weeds Revisited

Now that I have a few more pictures, and now that the plants are blooming, I want to quickly revisit three mint family weeds. The first two are often confused, maybe because of similar habit and flowers.

The plant on the left is Lamium purpureum (purple deadnettle), and the one on the right is Lamium amplexicaule (henbit). Both have similar-shaped leaves, but the deadnettle’s are pointier, and note how long the petioles are on the lower portion. The henbit’s leaves are sessile and appear to almost surround the stem. Also, the uppermost stem leaves of the deadnettle are purplish (hence the specific epithet), though not on very young plants.


Lamium purpureum
purple deadnettle




Lamium amplexicaule




The third species is Glechoma hederacea (gill-over-the-ground, ground ivy, creeping charlie). Ground ivy’s leaves are close in shape to henbit’s, but they have distinct short petioles. Henbit spreads along the ground, but individual stems will stand straight up; ground ivy stays much closer to the ground.

Glechoma hederacea
ground ivy

More Lamiaceous Wildflowers

20160718-_dsc0004Physostegia virginiana
obedient plant, false dragonhead
Although obedient plant has a large range in the eastern US and Canada, there are only a few scattered occurrences in Maryland, including Montgomery County. I found these stands among the bedrock outcroppings in the Potomac River upstream of Fletcher’s Boathouse in DC. Obedient plant is a perennial that grows to about four feet tall, with late-summer blooming flowers on tall spikes. If it has plenty of soil moisture it can become aggressive, otherwise it makes a great garden plant that attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.


Pycnanthemum tenuifolium
narrow-leaf mountain mint, slender mountain mint
This perennial species grows to three feet tall in rocky areas and drier soils, like the rock outcroppings just upstream of the Marsden Tract. In Maryland it’s found throughout the piedmont and most of the coastal plain; its larger range is from eastern Texas to Quebec. Flowers are borne in terminal cymes.


Salvia lyrata
lyre leaf sage
Like obedient plant, lyre-leaf sage is a native perennial that does well in the garden, growing to about two feet tall, with flowers borne in cymes on the upper part of the stem. It’s related to kitchen sage (same genus) but is not particularly fragrant. It grows in moist soils in full sunlight in every county in Maryland; its greater range is from Texas to New York, where it’s endangered.


Scutellaria elliptica
hairy skullcap
Hairy skullcap is a perennial that grows in drier woodlands; look for stands of it near Carderock and the Marsden Tract (C&O Canal NHP) in early to mid June, when the flowers on terminal racemes start opening. The species ranges from Texas through Pennsylvania, and is found in most of Maryland.


Scutellaria nervosa
veiny skullcap
When I was still fairly new to this hobby I found a few of these plants near the Marsden Tract. After a little while trying to shoot them with a macro lens, I went home to identify them. I was surprised and pleased to learn that I’d found an endangered species (S1, highly state rare), but sadly I have never seen the plants since, despite hours looking every May and June. Veiny skullcap is a low-growing perennial, presumably liking rich, moist woodlands, since that’s where I found it. Flowers are borne singly or in pairs in the axils of upper stem leaves.


Teucrium canadense
American or Canadian germander
This widespread perennial is found in all of the lower 48 states and most of sub-arctic Canada, and is considered weedy by some authorities. It grows to about three feet tall, with flowers borne on terminal racemes. It’s in the same genus as the germander used in herb gardens, but has a much looser habit and likes much wetter soils. In the Potomac gorge I find it right on the floodplain, often in large colonies, particularly in late summer when the river is low.


Trichostema dichotomum
blue curls, forked blue curls, bastard pennyroyal
This annual species is widespread in the eastern US and Canada; in Maryland it’s found throughout the piedmont, coastal plain, and ridge and valley physiographic provinces. Look for it growing in drier soils in sunny areas. I’ve seen it by the dozens in Serpentine Barrens Conservation Park in Montgomery County, blooming in late summer. The plant grows to about two feet tall, with flowers borne in axillary cymes.

Lamiaceous Wildflowers

In addition to the weeds (see previous post), there are quite a few species of lamiaceous wildflowers found in the Maryland piedmont. Bloom times given below are based on my observations over the past few years.


Clinopodium vulgare
(formerly Satureja vulgaris) 
wild basil
Wild basil grows in much of Maryland, but I’ve never seen it here; this specimen was photographed in central New York. It’s a circumboreal species; in the US it’s found in the northeast, midwest, Four Corners, and Pacific northwest. This is not the same species as culinary basil (Ocimum basilicum). It grows to about a foot and a half tall in dry soils in sunny areas and open woodlands. Flowers are borne in cymes in the upper leaf axils.


Collinsonia canadensis
horse mint, richweed, stone root
This species is found in most of Maryland (but only parts of the coastal plain). It’s native to eastern North America, and is endangered in Wisconsin. It’s a fairly large plant, growing to four feel tall with a three foot spread in sandy and/or loamy soils in woodlands.  I’ve found two stands of richweed along the Cabin John trail; both sites are moist to wet and rather shady. Small flowers are borne on large terminal panicles in mid to late summer.


Cunila origanoides
common dittany, American or Maryland dittany, frost mint, stone mint, sweet horse mint, fairy skirts
Dittany is found from eastern Texas to southern New York late. There are records for it in most of Maryland, but I’ve only seen it once, in the woods at Serpentine Barrens Conservation Park in central Montgomery County. Dittany is a late-summer blooming perennial, growing to about two feet tall, with flowers borne in cymes or panicles in the upper leaf axils.



Lycopus uniflorus
northern bugleweed, northern water horehound
Lycopus virginicus
Virginia bugleweed, Virginia water horehound
Two very similar looking species, differentiated by leaf shapes, presence/absence of hairs on stems, shape of calyx teeth, and other little details. Both are moisture-loving perennials growing to about three feet tall, with tiny flowers in cymes in the upper leaf axils. The late-summer blooming flowers are not at all showy.



Mentha arvensis
wild mint, field mint
This species is not one of the culinary mints, but like them it can be an aggressive grower. It’s a perennial that grows to two feel tall in moist soils with some sun, blooming in mid to late summer. Flowers are borne in cymes in the upper leaf axils. A circumboreal species, it’s found in most of the US, except in some southern states, and is listed as weedy by some authorities.


Monarda clinopodia
basil balm, white bergamot, basil bee balm
Basil balm is on the Maryland RTE watchlist (S3); it’s found only in the piedmont and a few areas to the west. There’s one vigorous stand along the Potomac that I visit every year to see the bees carousing in the blossoms, from about mid June to mid July; like other Monarda species it’s a great attractor of pollinators. Its greater range includes most of the Appalachian states and parts of the mid-Atlantic, with some occurrences in southern New England and the midwest. It’s endangered in New Jersey and New York. The plants stand to about three feet tall, growing in moist soils in open woodlands. The flowers are borne in terminal cymes.


Monarda fistulosa
wild bergamot, bee balm
Except for California, Florida, and Alaska, and Rhode Island where it’s listed as historical, every state in the continental US has one of the seven varieties of M. fistulosa. In Maryland it’s found throughout the piedmont. Like many mint family species, this one can grow aggressively, spreading far and fast in ideal conditions. If you can keep it under control it makes a lovely garden plant that attracts several species of bees and butterflies. It can grow in sun to part shade, in many different types of soils, though it prefers drier ones. In humid conditions (eg, if overcrowded) it can develop mildew. Bee balm is a many-branched perennial growing to about 4 feet tall. The flowers are borne in terminal cymes. Despite the common name, it isn’t related to the bergamot that flavors Earl Grey tea (that’s Citrus bergamia, in the Rutaceae).

next time: more lamiaceous wildflowers