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Siberian Dragonhead

Nepeta sibirica

  • Written also: Siberian Dragon’s-head
  • Latin synonym: Dracocephalum sibiricum
  • Family: Mint Family – Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 60–80 cm (24–32 in.). Stem short-haired–almost glabrous.
  • Flower: Corolla irregular (zygomorphic), dark violet, 25–40 mm (1–1.6 in.) long, over twice as long as calyx, bilabiate, with long, delicate tube. Upper lip 2-lobed, narrow, convex; lower lip 3-lobed, central lobe clearly bigger than lateral lobes. Calyx bilabiate, curved, 5-lobed, 15-veined, partly dark purple. Upper lip 3-lobed, lobes virtually the same size. Stamens 4, of which 2 short and 2 long. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Inflorescence spiked; a lax, intermittent whorl.
  • Leaves: Opposite, stalked. Leaf blade lanceolate–narrowly ovate, with tapering tips, shallow and blunt or cordate base, and toothed margin.
  • Fruit: 4-parted schizocarp.
  • Habitat: Gardens, yards, roadsides, waste ground and fields.
  • Flowering time: June–August.

The dragonheads are different from the catnips (Nepeta) and ground ivies (Glechoma) in the way that they have a spiked inflorescence and also regarding the details of the structure of the flower. In many specific cases however the line between the species is not so clear: Siberian dragonhead, which is cultivated as an ornamental and grows wild casually in Finland, is classified especially in old literature as a catnip Nepeta sibirica. It is generally reminiscent of many catnips, but from the details of the flowers it is clearly a dragonhead. The scientific name of the genus Dracocephalum refers to the typical form of dragonhead’s flower. It is comprised of the Greek words drakón, ’dragon’ and kefalé, ’head’ – a close look reveals that, in a certain light, the flower brings a dragon’s head to mind.

No dragonheads are native to Finland, but a few species are more or less established in Finland in the wild, and species that are cultivated as ornamentals sometimes escape. Siberian dragonhead is a tough survivor and grows for a long time wherever it is planted or has taken root.

Northern Dragonhead

Dracocephalum ruyschiana

Also northern dragonhead is cultivated in Finnish gardens. It’s easy to differentiate between the species, for instance from the leaves: northern dragonhead’s are linear and entire, while Siberian dragonhead’s are broader and serrated.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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