Dwarf Skullcap

When searching for information about dwarf skullcap (Scutellaria nana) about half the articles are concerned with the hallucinogenic properties of the plant and the remainder describe the plant itself. Apparently this native perennial is grown in some quarters as a substitute for marijuana. Since I get “high” enough simply by studying natural history I have no interest in its “medicinal” aspects.

Dwarf skullcap is listed as a rare plant in California. Thus I will simply say that these pictures were taken in Modoc County CA in June and not assist anyone interested in exploiting dwarf skullcap for its hallucinogenic qualities.

A member of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae), dwarf skullcap grows in the volcanic and clay soils of the Great Basin scrub and pinyon and juniper woodlands. It can be found in Oregon, California, Idaho and Nevada between 4,000 and 6,000 feet.

The erect stem of dwarf skullcap arises from rhizomes. Generally the entire plant is hairy. The opposite leaves are obovate to diamond shaped with rounded tips. The basal leaves are petioled (stalked) and the cauline (stem) leaves become more sessile distally.

Dwarf skullcap flowers are snapdragon shaped with two lips. The upper lip is dome-shaped and extends over the lower, three-lobed lip. The corolla (petals) is white to pale yellow with purple spots on the lower lip. The four stamens occur in two pairs. There is a horn-like protrusion on the upper side of the calyx.

Once the corolla falls away the four dwarf skullcap seeds (nutlets) remain inside the calyx. The seeds are black and ovoid at maturity.

A synonym for S nana is Scutellaria holmgreniorum. Other common names include little skullcap and Holmgren’s skullcap. Sometimes skullcap is spelled scullcap.

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