Scutellaria altissima Scutellaria altissima

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Spear-leaved Skullcap

Scutellaria hastifolia

  • Family: Mint Family – Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rhizome thin, creeping, branched.
  • Height: 10–50 cm (4–20 in.). Stem unbranched or branched from base, 4-edged, hairy along edges.
  • Flower: Corolla irregular (zygomorphic), bluish violet, 15–25 mm (0.6–1 in.) long, fused, bilabiate, long-tubed. Corolla upper lip convex, tube curved steeply upwards. Calyx campanulate, bilabiate, clear protuberance on back, with glandular hairs, sealed in fruiting stage. Stamens 4, of which 2 long and 2 short. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Flowers in pairs in a dense, one-sided group at top of stem.
  • Leaves: Opposite, short-stemmed. Blade ovately lanceolate–narrowly triangular, round-tipped, hastate-based, with entire margin–sparely blunt-toothed at base. Subtending bracts like stem leaves, shorter than flowers.
  • Fruit: 4-sectioned schizocarp. Mericarps yellowish brown, granular.
  • Habitat: Rocky shores, hillsides, streams, ditches, shoreside forests, kelp banks.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Spear-leaved skullcap thrives in Finland in very different kinds of environments compared to its widespread relative common skullcap (S. galericulata), which favours wet places. The species often grows on dry, chalky slopes, on rocky ground and on seaweed banks on shores. The most strongly developed and most beautifully-flowered plants often grow in sunny places. The centre of the species’ habitat encompasses the large river valleys of central and eastern Europe, which are warm and fairly dry at the beginning of summer. Spear-leaved skullcap loves heat and in Finland is common only on the Åland Islands and the Turku archipelago, although it grows along the coast of the Baltic Sea, all the way to the Russian border, albeit rarely. Spear-leaved skullcap is more impressive than common skullcap when it is in bloom because its flowers are grouped in rows along one side of the top of the stem. Classifying spear-leaved skullcap is more difficult before or after flowering, but its leaves, which have entire margins and are hastate-based, especially around the mid-stem, can usually help one reach the right conclusion.

The Finnish name for the plant, ‘goat’s nose’, was probably formed by Elias Lönnrot based on the Swedish name ‘getnos’: the flower’s or perhaps the fruit’s form bears some resemblance to a goat’s skull. The skullcaps’ modern Swedish name ‘frossört’ (shiver herb) refers to the herbs’ medicinal use: especially in the south they were formerly used to treat malaria, although they were probably not very effective.

Tall skullcap

Scutellaria altissima

Tall skullcap, which has stalked leaves and serrated margins, may be found on the edges of gardens.

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

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