- Family: Figwort Family – Scrophulariaceae
- Growing form: Biennial or perennial herb.
- Height: 20–100 cm (16–40 in.). Stem 4-edged, with glandular hairs.
- Flower: Corolla almost symmetrical, greenish yellow, 6–8 mm (0.24–0.32 in.) long, fused, 5-lobed, lobes of equal size. Corolla funnel short, wide. Calyx regular (actinomorphic), 5-lobed. Stamens 5, of which 1 atrophied to become scale-like and 4 with anther. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Inflorescence a racemose, axillary cyme.
- Leaves: Opposite, stalked. Leaf blade widely ovate, flat or cordate-based, with doubly serrated margins, underside with glandular hairs.
- Fruit: 2-valved capsule that opens up to its base.
- Habitat: Gardens, forest margins. Ornamental, sometimes an escape.
- Flowering time: May.
When most people think of pollinators they think of bees and wasps, but in fact the latter are not the most popular pollinators in the plant kingdom. Pollen doesn’t stick very efficiently to hairless and hard-shelled insects. Additionally they feed their larvae by preying on other insects rather than collecting nectar and pollen for them, so they are actually quite lazy when it comes to visiting flowers.
Figworts are rare plants that are suited to being pollinated by wasps. From the plant’s point of view specialisation has clear advantages: it doesn’t need to compete with other plants for pollinators, insects don’t loiter in other flowers and the pollen is most likely to get to the right place, to the stigma of another figwort. Special pollinators require special lures, however. Figwort flowers’ dreary colour and foul smell is probably mainly directed at wasps looking for insect nutrition whose predatory instinct leads them to the flowers. Yellow figwort flowers are yellow, although wasps are also this species’ prime pollinators. Perhaps other insects, such as flower flies, also visit. Those who are interested would be well advised to observe who really visits yellow figwort.
Another similar yellow-flowered species is Scrophularia chrysantha, which is grown in Finland as an ornamental. Its inflorescence is however denser and the leaf margin has shallower indentations. The flowers of common figwort (S. nodosa), which also grows in Finland, are greenish brown.