Skullcap is a native perennial wildflower.  The genus, Scuttelaria, is huge; there are 300 species worldwide. Ninety-plus species occur in North America alone. The flower get its name from the shape of the calyx (the group of sepals) at the base of the flower, which looks like a little helmet (or “skull cap”). Other names for this flower include helmet flower, quaker bonnet, mad dog, hoodwort, and blue pimpernel!  If that is not enough, there are more!

With so many species in this genus, I’m a bit intimidated to try to key this particular plant down to species. A previous post this year lists a lighter blue flower as Showy Skullcap.  Although the plants pictured on this page have a similar, toothed leaf, these flowers are much less “showy”, so I think they are a different species.  As to which one, I’m not sure.  I’m going to leave it at “skullcap”.

This set of photographs was taken at Pandapas Pond, in Montgomery County, VA, in mid-June. The plants were growing in full sun, at the edge of the forest.

Around the world, some species of skullcap have historically been used as medicine to treat a very wide variety of illnesses. Some species have anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, and sedative properties, among others. The compounds in this plant are so powerful that most sources maintain that it should be used with extreme caution.

A simple, beautiful little flower with an interesting past…

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