Scutellaria leonardii (Leonard's Skullcap)

Plant Info
Also known as: Small Skullcap
Family:Lamiaceae (Mint)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry sandy soil; prairies, open woods
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:4 to 8 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
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 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 hood is much smaller. The calyx is covered in glandless 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 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 can be multiple from the root, square with fine downy hairs or scattered ascending hairs, especially on the angles, few branches above, erect.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] The calyx swells to a pinkish capsule containing a few seeds.

[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 was once treated as a variant of Scutellaria parvula (Small Skullcap, going by var. missouriensis), which is more restricted to the bluffs and upland woods of SE Minnesota. S. parvula is generally more hairy throughout with glandular hairs (S. leonardii has glandless hairs), more oval leaves and up to 5 veins on each side of the mid-vein. Leonard's Skullcap established quite well as a small garden border in sandy soil.

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More photos

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


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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