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.


Flower of the Day: Hairy Skullcap



Scutellaria elliptica







Don’t you just love common names sometimes?



This woodland forb is one of only a few plants blooming now in the Gorge.  It ranges from New York and Michigan south to Florida and Texas.  There are more than 40 other native species of Scutellaria scattered throughout the US, ten of which can be found in Maryland.  With the exception of veiny skullcap last year (but not this year), I’ve never seen any of the others.  In the Gorge you’ll find hairy skullcap in the drier soils and rocky areas well above river level, especially in the vicinity of Carderock and the Marsden Tract.


I’ve never come across it in the nursery trade and wonder why.  Although somewhat short at 2 1/2 feet tall, it would make a lovely addition to a partly shady perennial border, for the inflorescence is quite showy and lasts several weeks.  It is an inconspicuous plant without the flowers, though.  Maybe that’s why.