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Skullcap, an American Native

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >

Branch out in your garden this spring and grow one of the skullcap herb clan, a group of rather pretty native plants. They grow from 8 to 24 inches tall, depending on the variety. Scullcaps require little trimming and naturally form a flowery mound. Water new plants twice a week until well established.

Skullcaps are members of the mint family. A close look at their flowers will reveal the resemblance. These herbs are named after the close fitting men’s cap worn in medieval times. The upper lip of the flower is said to resemble that cap style. Here are four varieties for you to look for.

* Pink Texas skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens) grows about 1-2 feet tall. The bright pink flowers appear after Memorial Day and don’t quit for several months. This is a cheerful herb that can be used as a border plant. It is happy in full sun but also blooms in shade. They leaves are small, about the size of thyme.

* Virginian skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia) is more common in the Eastern U.S. but I mention it here because it is the one most commonly sold as an herbal medicine. In times past, it was also know as Mad-Dog Skullcap for its reputed ability to fend off hydrophobia, a.k.a. rabies. It enjoys growing in damp places and along the banks of streams so most Texas gardeners would find it a real challenge to grow.

* Shrubby skullcap (Scutellaria wrightii) grows only 8 inches high and blooms in June with dark purple flowers. It can grow in full sun but will also be happy in dappled shade. It’s ideal for rock gardens.

* Common skullcap (Scutellaria drummondii) is similar to shrubby skullcap but is more drought tolerant. It is native to the southern U.S. and sports violet colored flowers with a central white area.