There are about 2800 species 200 genera of Scrophulariaceae distributed worldwide, many grow in the American Northwest. The name was derived from European species of Scrophularia, the common figwort. The plants were used to treat hemorrhoids, which were known as 'figs'. Figworts were also used to treat scrofula, a form of tuberculosis carried in the milk of infected cows. Except for the foxglove (Digitalis), the source of the heart stimulant digitalis, none of the members of this family is of noteworthy economic importance, but many, like the penstemons, are cultivated for their handsome flowers. The figwort family is characterized by irregular, bilaterally symmetrical flowers with 4-5 sepals, joined to a calyx, and 4-5 petals, joined to a corolla. These often form a tube at the end of which the petals flair outward, the lower ones forming a down turned 'lip'. The flowers have two pairs of anther-bearing stamens, and a sterile fifth stamen—a taxonomically important feature. All these parts are attached at the base of the ovary. The flowers are bisexual and sometimes have brightly colored and conspicuous associated bracts. The leaves are alternate, opposite, or sometimes whorled, and are simple to pinnately divided. The fruit type is usually a 2-chambered capsule. In the family Scrophulariaceae are some common hemiparasites, such as Indian paintbrush and owl's clover (Castilleja), lousewort (Pedicularis), and bird's beak (Cordylanthus). These have green, photosynthetic leaves, but a substantial portion of the parasite's carbon is derived from the host plant, parasitized from the roots.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of the Figwort Family
FLOWERS WITH 4 SPREADING LOBES. LEAVES OPPOSITE
Collinsia parviflora Blue-eyed Mary Stems slender, weak, 5-30 cm tall. Sparsely vegetated areas, foothills-montane.
Flowers pale-blue to white and blue, 4-10 mm long. Lobes in 2 pairs.
Leaves opposite, 1-4 cm long, narrowly egg-shaped to linear, short-hairy.
Veronica Speedwell Plants trailing to erect, usually slender and small. Moist to dry sites.
Flowers blue-white, 4-lobed, with 2 stamens. Upper lobe largest, lower smallest.
Leaves opposite, elliptic to lance-shaped and linear, short-stalked or stalkless.
FLOWERS 2-LIPPED, WITH 5 LOBES. LEAVES OPPOSITE
Mimulus Monkey-flower Stems usually 10-60 cm tall, leafy. Moist sites at moderate to high elevation.
Flowers showy, yellow or purple, tubular, irregular, with 5 speading lobes.
Leaves opposite, lance-shaped to linear, sometimes toothed.
Penstemon Beard-tongue Stems usually stout, 10-60 cm tall. Mostly dry sites, moderate-high elevation.
Flowers showy, mostly blue or purple, tubular, irregular, with 5 speading lobes.
Leaves opposite, usually lance-shaped or linear, stalkless, sometimes toothed.
FLOWERS WITH 5 ALMOST EQUAL LOBES
Verbascum Mullein Stout plants, 40-200 cm tall. Disturbed ground, plains to subalpine.
Flowers yellow, 1-3 cm wide, with 5 equal lobes, numerous in tall spikes.
Leaves basal and alternate, broadly lance-shaped, 10-40 cm long, stalkless.
FLOWERS TUBULAR, OFTEN WITH COLORFUL BRACTS. LEAVES ALTERNATE
Castilleja Indian Paintbrush Stems usually 10-60 cm tall, leafy. Mostly dry sites, moderate-high elevation.
Flowers tubular and inconspicuous, covered by showy, colorful bracts, in heads.
Leaves alternate, lance-shaped, linear or finely divided.
Orthocarpus Owl Clover Stems 10-40 cm tall, single, glandular-hairy. Dry, open sites, plains to montane.
Flowers yellow, tubular, 9-14 mm long, wider near tip. Bracts are 3-5-lobed.
Leaves alternate, linear or finely divided, stalkless.
FLOWERS WITH CURVED OR HOODED UPPER LIP
Pedicularis Lousewort Plants with stout, unbranched stems. Higher elevations.
Flowers of various colors, in tall clusters. Upper lip arched, usually downward.
Leaves alternate, finely pinnately divided, fern-like.
FLOWERS WITH SPURS
Linaria Toadflax Plants 20-80 cm tall, ill-scented. Disturbed ground, plains to montane.
Flowers yellow with orange on lower lip, 20-35 mm long, with long, slender spur.
Leaves alternate, linear to broadly lance-shaped, with bluish cast.
FLOWERS INCONSPICUOUS, IN DENSE SPIKES
Besseya wyomingensis Wyoming Kitten-tails Stems 10-60 cm tall, thick, single. Dry, open slopes, foothills to alpine.
Flowers grayish-purple, without petals, in dense spikes. Stamens 2, projecting.
Leaves mainly basal, egg-shaped, hairy, long-stalked, with rounded teeth.
Alphabetical listing with links to presented species of the Figwort family: