Scutellaria leonardii (Leonard's Skullcap)

Plant Info
Also known as: Small Skullcap
Family:Lamiaceae (Mint)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; average to dry sandy soil; prairies, savannas, open woods, bluffs, rock outcrops
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:4 to 8 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular

[photo of flowers] Pairs of small, blue to violet, irregular flowers, ¼ to 1/3 inch (5 to 8 mm) long and wide, blooming from upper leaf axils. Flowers' outer surface is finely hairy, a broad four lobed lower lip is angled straight down with a display of blue on white dots and two lines of scattered hairs, the upper lip much smaller, forming a hood over the throat. The calyx is covered in non-glandular hairs and has a small ridge-like protrusion at the top.

[photo of cleistogamous flowers] On some plants, flowers may not all produce blue petals, but instead just a very small, closed white tube protruding from the calyx, a self-pollinating cleistogamous flower. Cleistogamous flowers may be even more inconspicuous than shown here.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are opposite, lance-like, angled up or spreading, short stalked or almost clasping, ½ to 2/3 inch (to 16 mm) long, ¼ to ½ inch wide, the edges toothless and curled or rolled under (see flower photo above), mostly hairless to sparsely hairy on the edges and tip, with 2 or 3 veins on each side of midrib. Stems are single or multiple from the base, square with fine downy hairs or scattered ascending hairs, especially on the angles, unbranched or few-branched, erect.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] The calyx swells to a pinkish capsule containing 4 nutlets.

[photo of seed] Seeds are about 1 millimeter long, asymmetrical but generally oval, covered on most of the surface with missile-shaped protuberances. In the center of one side is an obvious white speck of the germ.


Leonard's Skullcap is more commonly known as a variety of Scutellaria parvula (Small Skullcap, var. missouriensis) but in Minnesota it's treated as its own species. It is not uncommon in dry sandy prairies, savannas and bluffs, but has occasionally been recorded in moister habitats. S. parvula is distinguished by its glandular hairs (S. leonardii has non-glandular hairs), more oval leaves and 3 to 5 veins on each side of the mid-vein. Leonard's Skullcap establishes quite well as a small garden border in sandy soil or a rock garden.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Lost Valley SNA, Washington County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Washington counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Charles Argue
on: 2021-03-12 13:32:38

ITIS treats this as a synonym of S. parvula var. missouriensis. What treatment prevails?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-03-12 19:02:23

Charles, the MN DNR's policy is to use Gleason and Cronquist nomenclature for anything not yet published in Flora of North America, so is using S. leonardii for now, but the trend appears to be what ITIS lists. According to the Bell Herbarium's annotated checklist, both var. missouriensis and var. parvula are in Minnesota, but there are no records of the latter. FWIW, BONAP does not recognize any vars at all for S. parvula.

Posted by: Brett W - Cedar Creek Research area
on: 2022-06-19 18:02:42

First time seeing this plant. Along the trail to the buffalo pavilion.

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