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Skullcap - Perennial Wildflower

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Yvonne writes about and photographs the flora and fauna of Louisiana, sharing knowledge she learned through study and personal experience.

Native skullcap is one of the few blue wildflowers.

Native skullcap is one of the few blue wildflowers.

Perennial Flowers: Scutellaria, Helmet Flower, Rough Skullcap

Skullcap or Scutellaria is a perennial herb that is a member of the mint family. It has clusters of beautiful blue flowers and interesting skullcap (or helmet) shaped seed pods. Different varieties live all over the United States, but here in Louisiana only Rough Skullcap, Scutellaria integrefolia is native.

Skullcap is drought tolerant and its striking blue flowers make it a pleasing addition to a natural or fern garden. The blue flowers attract pollinators.

Rough Skullcap, Helmet Flower - Scutellaria integrifolia

Description

Rough Skullcap, Scutellaria integrifolia is a blue flowering perennial that grows 1-2 feet tall. It is usually branched near the base. The stem is square and covered with fine hairs. The bluish-lavender flowers are 2-lipped. The seed pods look like helmets and after they disperse their small black seeds, look like skull caps.

Skullcap grows in full sun to part shade in clearings, along the edges of woods and in pine lands. The blue flowers bloom from March to May.

Hoary Skullcap Seeds

Skullcap is easy to start from seed, either through direct sowing or in a flat.

Rough Skullcap

flowers-perennial-skullcap

How to grow

Plant in well drained soil in sun or part shade.

Propagate by seed or root division in spring or fall. Seeds can be collected by clipping the seed pod stem off when the pods turn brown, but before they split open. Store in a paper bag inside in a cool, dry place.

Skullcap Seedpods - Scutellaria integrifolia

The top part of the seed pod pops off to release the seeds when they are dry enough.

The top part of the seed pod pops off to release the seeds when they are dry enough.

Wildflowers of Mississippi is a top notch guide book for southern wildflowers. It has excellent color pictures and good descriptions for many native plants.

The video below shows identification keys for a North Carolina species of skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora.

Skullcap Poll

Skullcap

A native Scutellaria growing by the pond in Southeastern Louisiana.

A native Scutellaria growing by the pond in Southeastern Louisiana.

Properties and Uses

Many species of Scutellaria were used in herbal remedies, even though skullcaps do not have the mint like aroma like other members of the mint family. However, Tull reports that the bitter skullcaps (Scutellaria species) are toxic, so it is best to stick with the aromatic members of the mint family, like monarda, for teas.

The video below discusses 3 Appalachian herbal plants: Sumac, Passion Vine and Skullcap. Besides talking about how to identify the plants and the growing conditions she discusses the uses of each in herbal medicine. These three were used for nervous conditions and sleep problems by the people of the Appalachian Mountains.

Southern Appalachian Herbs with Patricia Kyritsi Howell - Sumac, Passion Flower and Skull Cap

Dark Blue Skullcap

Scutellaria incana

Scutellaria incana

I believe that this dark blue Skullcap is Scutellaria incana, also known as Downy or Hoary Skullcap (or a cultivar). Hoary Skullcap is native to the southeastern United States, but not Louisiana.

It grows well here, though. I started with one plant and now I have them growing in several places in the yard. Scutellaria incana reseeds readily and it is very easy to transplant the seedlings. It likes to grow in part shade, with a few hours of morning sun.

Companion plants include shampoo ginger, Coreopsis nana, blue violets and other plants that grow in part-shade.

Hoary Skullcap and Shampoo Ginger

Add some white impatiens and you will have the old red, white and blue.

Add some white impatiens and you will have the old red, white and blue.

More About Southern Wildflowers

  • Gardening with Native Plants
    Join the landscaping with native plant revolution! Here you'll find many photos and much information plus plant lists showing how to use native plants and edibles to make your yard more sustainable.
  • 15 Easy to Grow Southern Wildflowers
    This page features 15 native perennial flowering plants complete with photographs of and information plus links to more about each. These beauties will thrive in the hot, humid South.

© 2011 Yvonne L B

Please leave a comment

ejcarboretumjmu on June 19, 2014:

hello, we have Scutellaria incana growing at the EJC Arboretum. Glad to see you blog about this wildflower. jmu.edu/arboretum

jadehorseshoe on January 03, 2012:

Goregous Work!

ajsanders100 on August 12, 2011:

Awesome pictures on your website! They fit each of your contents!

eclecticeducati1 on August 10, 2011:

Beautiful lens! :)