Scrophulariaceae - Figwort Family
Contents English Names Index
 
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 IN CLUSTERS, LEAVES OPPOSITE
Mimulus - Monkey-flowers
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.
Penstemons or Beard-tongues
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 OFTEN WITH COLORFUL BRACTS, LEAVES ALTERNATE
Castilleja - Paintbrushes
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 altenate, lance-shaped, linear or finely divided.
Orthocarpus luteus - Yellow Owl-clover
Slender, 10-40 cm tall, glandular-hairy. Dry, open sites, plains-montane.
Flowers yellow, tubular, 9-14 mm long, wider near tip. Bracts are 3-5-lobed.
Leaves alternate, linear, 1.5-4 cm long, stalkless, rough-hairy.
FLOWERS IN TALL CLUSTERS, LEAVES ALTERNATE AND WHOLE
Besseya wyomingensis - Wyoming Kitten-tails
Stems 10-60 cm tall, thick, single. Dry, open slopes, foothills to alpine.
Flowers greyish-purple, without petals, in dense spikes. Stamens 2, projecting.
Leaves mainly basal, egg-shaped, hairy, long-stalked, with rounded teeth.
Linaria - Toadflax or Butter-and-eggs
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.
Verbascum thapsus - Great Mullein
Stout plants, 40-200 cm tall. Disturbed ground, plains to subalpine.
Flowers yellow, 1-2 cm wide, with 5 equal lobes, numerous in tall, dense spikes.
Leaves basal and alternate, broadly lance-shaped, 10-40 cm long, stalkless.
FLOWERS WITH CURVED UPPER LIP, LEAVES ALTERNATE AND FERN-LIKE
Pedicularis - Louseworts
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 SMALL AND BLUE, MOSTLY LOW AND SLENDER PLANTS
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 - Speedwells
Stems trailing to erect, usually slender, up to about 30 cm tall. Moist to dry sites.
Flowers usually blue, 4-lobed, with 2 stamens. Upper lobe largest, lower smallest.
Leaves opposite, elliptic to lance-shaped and linear, short-stalked or stalkless.
Alphabetical listing with links to presented species of the Figwort family:
     
Scientific Name English Name Swedish Name
 

 

 
Besseya
Castilleja
Collinsia
Linaria
Mimulus
Orthocarpus
Pedicularis
Penstemon
Verbascum
Veronica
Kittentails
Paintbrush
Blue-eyed Mary
Toadflax
Monkey Flowers
Owl Clover
Lousewort
Penstemon, Beard Tongue
Mullein
Speedwell
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Sporrar
Gyckelblommor
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Spiror
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Kungsljus
Veronikor
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