Category: Plantaginaceae

  • Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

    Penstemon digitalis

    A beautiful native flower, prized by gardeners, that is surprisingly common around here. This plant was growing in recently disturbed ground near a construction site—always a good place to look for interesting plants—along the Monongahela on the South Side. The pictures were taken on June 10.

    For a fuller description, see the Penstemon digitalis reference page.

    In the close-up picture below, we can see the hairy tongue, inside the tube of the flower, that gives “beardtongues” their name.

    Foxglove Beardtongue
  • Butter-and-Eggs (Linaria vulgaris)

    Photographed October 4 on the South Side Slopes.

    Butter-and-Eggs is very common in the city, and along roadsides in the suburbs. It can sprout almost anywhere; it blooms for a long time; and it seems impervious to abuse. It’s one of our most beautiful weeds, and if it were at all rarer it would be a treasured garden flower. Father Pitt has accumulated a number of pictures of Linaria vulgaris since 2011, which was the last time we looked at this plant on this site.

    Linaria vulgaris
    Photographed October 4 in Carnegie.
    Photographed September 19 on the South Side Slopes.

    Gray describes the genus and the species:

    LINÀRIA [Toum.] Hill. TOADFLAX. Calyx 5-parted. Corolla spurred at base on the lower side (in abnormal specimens sometimes regularly 5-spurred). Capsule thin, opening below the summit by 1 or more pores or chinks. Seeds many. —Herbs, with at least all the upper leaves alternate (in ours), flowering in summer. (Name from Linum, the Flax, which some species resemble in their foliage.)

    Erect or ascending, with narrow entire leaves.

    Flowers yellow.

    L. vulgaris Hill. (RAMSTED, BUTTER AND EGGS.) Glabrous, erect, 1.3 m. or less high; leaves pale, linear or nearly so, extremely numerous, subaltérnate; raceme dense; corolla 2-3 cm. long or more, including the slender subulate spur; seeds winged. — Fields and roadsides, throughout our range. (Nat from Eu.)

    Photographed October 4 in Carnegie.
    Seedpods, photographed September 19 on the South Side Slopes.
    Photographed October 4 on the South Side Slopes.
  • Common Speedwell (Veronica officinalis)

    Photographed May 29.

    If these were larger, they might be treasured garden flowers. They are found everywhere in our lawns, and they are small enough that it takes a good close look to notice the delicate violet stripes on the flowers. The plant is fuzzy, with oval leaves and rambling stems; it is short enough to pass easily under lawn-mower blades. You can find it blooming from mid-spring through summer; these plants were blooming in West End Park in late May.

    Common speedwell

    Gray describes the genus and the species:

    VERONICA [Tourn.] L. SPEEDWELL The lateral lobes of the corolla or the lowest one commonly narrower than the others. Stamens 2, one each side of the upper lobe of the corolla, exserted; anther-cells confluent at the apex. Style entire; stigma single. Capsule flattened, obtuse or notched at the apex, 2-celled, few-many-seeded. – Chiefly herbs; flowers blue, flesh-color, or white. (Derivation doubtful; perhaps the flower of St. Veronica.)

    Corolla wheel-shaped, the tube short; capsule more or less notched, strongly flattened; low or decumbent herbs.

    Perennials, stoloniferous or rooting at base, with opposite usually serrate leaves, racemes axillary, mostly opposite; corolla pale blue.

    V. officinalis L. (COMMON S.) Pubescent; stem prostrate, rooting at base; leaves short-petioled, obovate-elliptical or wedge-oblong, obtuse, serrate; racemes densely many-flowered; pedicels shorter than the calyx; capsule obovate-triangular, broadly notched. — Dry hills and open woods, Nfd. to Ont., Mich., and southw. May-Aug. (Eurasia.)

  • Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica)

    Veronica persica
    Photographed April 13.

    Persian Speedwell is one of our earliest and most beautiful spring flowers. It is so tiny and so ubiquitous, however, that it passes unnoticed even when it lights up our lawns with sky-blue flowers. The blooming period begins in March, or even late February, and is generously long. These flowers were blooming in the middle of April.

    Since Gray did not describe this species, which had not taken firm hold here in his time, we repeat our own description. The flowers of the Persian Speedwell have yellow centers, fading to white veined with blue, the blue predominating toward the outer edges of the petals, and giving the overall impression of a blue flower from a short distance. The leaves are roundish, sessile near the top of the stem and on short petioles below, gently toothed, somewhat hairy. The plant seldom exceeds the height of a few inches, and can often pass unmolested under a lawnmower blade.

    Veronica was placed in the family Scrophulariaceae until recently; like most of our members of that family, it is now placed in Plantaginaceae.

  • Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria)

    These stately, slender perennials have lately become favorites in the garden trade. In the wild, they grow white or yellow flowers. The yellow flowers seem to be more common in most places, but the white ones (var. albiflorum, according to Gray) are far more common in Pittsburgh. Gardeners have bred a number of attractive pastels. A close look (click to enlarge the picture above) reveals the “filaments all bearded with violet wool,” as Gray describes them.

    The plants like to grow in a clear spot at the edge of the woods, as they did here on a hillside in Mount Lebanon, where they were blooming in the middle of July.

    Gray describes the genus and the species:

    VERBASCUM [Tourn.] L. MULLEIN. Calyx 5-parted. Corolla 5-lobed, open or concave; the lobes broad and rounded, a little unequal. Style flattened at the apex. Capsule globular, many-seeded. Tall and usually woolly biennial herbs; the leaves of the stem sessile, often decurrent. Flowers in large terminal spikes or racemes, ephemeral, in summer. (The ancient Latin name, altered from Barbascum.)

    V. blattaria L. (MOTH M.) Green and smoothish, or somewhat glandular-pubescent above, slender; lower leaves petioled, oblong, doubly serrate, sometimes lyre-shaped, the upper partly clasping; raceme loose, the pedicels longer than the fruit; filaments all bearded with violet wool. Roadsides and waste places, w. Me. to Ont., and southw., local. Corolla either yellow, or (in var. albiflorum Ktze.) white with a tinge of purple. (Nat. from Eu.)

    In Wild Flowers Worth Knowing, the Moth Mullein is described thus:

    Moth Mullein

    Verbascum blattaria

    Flowers–Yellow, or frequently white, 5-parted, about 1 in. broad, marked with brown; borne on spreading pedicles in a long, loose raceme; all the filaments with violet hairs; 1 protruding pistil. Stem: Erect, slender, simple, about 2 ft. high, sometimes less, or much taller. Leaves: Seldom present at flowering time; oblong to ovate, toothed, mostly sessile, smooth.

    Preferred Habitat–Dry, open waste land; roadsides, fields.

    Flowering Season–June-November.

    Distribution–Naturalized from Europe and Asia, more or less common throughout the United States and Canada.

    “Of beautiful weeds quite a long list might be made without including any of the so-called wild flowers,” says John Burroughs. “A favorite of mine is the little Moth Mullein that blooms along the highway, and about the fields, and maybe upon the edge of the lawn.” Even in winter, when the slender stem, set with round brown seed-vessels, rises above the snow, the plant is pleasing to the human eye, as it is to that of hungry birds.