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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Scutellaria galericulata L.

Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

Common Name:

common or marsh skullcap


Marsh skullcap is a native perennial that grows in shallow water over peat or muck soils, in full or part sun, where water levels are very stable. It spreads by rhizomes, and grows to 0.8 m tall on weak but erect stems.

All the members of the Mint family have square stems and simple, opposite leaves. The five petals are fused into 2 lips so that the flower is bilaterally symmetric. Mints have 4 stamens, and each set of 2 differs in height or form.  Many (not all) mints, like the seasonings -- basil, thyme, oregano, peppermint -- are aromatic and prefer moist or wet soil.

The sepals at the base of the flower are also fused into 2 lobes.  In all the Scutellaria the upper lip forms a flat plate or dish that holds the fruit and gives the genus its name.

Marsh skullcap flowers are blue with a little white, solitary in the axils of the leaves, and up to 2 cm long.  They bloom from June to September. The leaves are up to 6 cm long, smooth on top and slightly hairy below.  They have no aroma when crushed but a bitter taste.  Some describe the leaves attached to the stem with a distinct stalk or petiole, but, as in the photo, this is a variable character and the leaves may be attached directly to the stem.

Some plants not in the Mint family also have square stems, such as verbenas, some snapdragons and purple loosestrife . The Mint family is most similar to the Verbena family which also has opposite leaves and bilaterally symmetric flowers with 4 stamens.  The botanical (but hard to see) difference, is that the style in mints begins at the base of the 4-parted ovary, while in verbenas, the style sits on top of the ovary.  Itís easier to learn our few verbenas by site, e.g. blue vervain, than it is to look for this feature in the very small flowers.

  • Origin of the name: Scutellaria, L. scutella, a square serving dish or tray; galericulata, L., galea, a helmet, usually leather, refers to the form of the flower
  • Range:  Circumboreal, in N. Amer. s. to NC, MO
  • WI Range:  Statewide
  • Common associates: marsh milkweed, bluejoint grass, tamarack, lake sedge
  • Wetland Indicator Status: OBL
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 5 (S&W), C = 5 (MI)
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