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Hairy Skullcap - Scutellaria elliptica


Family: Lamiaceae - Mint family Genus Common Name: Skullcap Native Status: Native
Scutellaria elliptica - Hairy Skullcap. Scutellaria is a large genus, with over 300 species recognized worldwide. There are about 45 species of Scutellaria found in United States, over 40 of which are native. At least one Scutellaria species is found in every state except Hawaii. Scutellaria elliptica is found in 25 states from New York to Texas.

My identification of this plant has a slightly lower level of confidence than most that I choose to publish (it is not a scientific measure of level of confidence - just a gut feel.) The color pattern on the flowers does not match that of many photographs I have found on the Internet and identified as Scutellaria elliptica, although that could be just variability. While it matches the description found in Wildflowers of Tennessee the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians, Weakley’s key to Scutellaria describes S. elliptica var. elliptica as having glandless leaves, and my photos show glands on the upper surface of at least the leaves from which the inflorescences arise (a characteristic of S. pseudoserrata.) I believe this to be S. elliptica var. hirsuta because:
  • The stem hairs seem longer than what is described for var. elliptica and some stem hairs are glandular.
  • Weakley doesn’t mention leaf surface for var. hirsuta, and since hirsuta is a more glandular variety, it is reasonable that it could have glandular leaf hairs while var. elliptica does not.


Found in:
AL, AR, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV

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Scutellaria elliptica

Distribution of Scutellaria elliptica in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 26 Mar 2017). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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Site: Nickajack Road, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-June-15Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The flower of Hairy Skullcap is blue to violet, and about .75 inches long. The lower lip is white-marked, and as with most skullcaps, the upper lip is hood-like. The calyx is covered with many stipitate (stalked) glandular hairs.
Scutellaria elliptica

Site: Nickajack Road, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-June-15Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The inflorescence of Scutellaria elliptica is a hairy raceme - more or less equally spaced, pedicellate blossoms. There are hairy floral bracts that are up to about an inch long, clearly different from the plant’s leaves. It blooms in late May to early July.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Scutellaria elliptica

Site: Nickajack Road, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-June-15Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
In addition to a terminal raceme, the inflorescences arise from the axils of the top one to three leaf pairs. The plant grows in dry deciduous woods and barrens and can be up to 2 feet tall.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Scutellaria elliptica

Site: Nickajack Road, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-June-15Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The leaves of Scutellaria elliptica are more or less ovate with short petioles. The base of the leaf may be rounded, or (more frequently?) cuneate (wedge-shaped); the tips are blunt. The stem is square (after all, it is in the Mint family) and the corners are frequently purple-tinted. The stem is hairy - in var. elliptica the hairs are shorter, glandless, and ascending. In var. hirsuta they are longer, spreading, and glandular, at least in the upper part of the plant. In this photo it appears that only some of the stem hairs are glandular.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Scutellaria elliptica

References used for identification and information:

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer