In Bloom: Skullcap

In Bloom: Skullcap

Skullcap. Anne Holmes, illustrator

By Suzanne Wodek

Scutellaria incana, commonly called Skullcap, is a native perennial wildflower that grows in open woods, clearings, on slopes and along streams. The genus name comes from the Latin word scutella, meaning a small dish or saucer in reference to the shape of the flower. A member of the Lamiaceae, or mint, family, the stems are square and hoary (covered with minute, white hairs), hence the other common name of hoary skullcap.

Plants are 2-3’ tall with a spread of 1-2’. The flowers are salvia-like and about 3/4” long with a soothing blue-violet color. Small colonies are formed from underground rhizomes. This plant performs best in well-drained, slightly acid, sandy or clay soil. It tolerates heat, drought, shade and full sun if the soil is moist. Because the foliage is bitter-tasting, deer and rabbits usually don’t bother this plant to any significant degree and there are no serious insect or disease problems. This interesting and attractive wildflower is pollinated primarily by bumblebees. Other visitors include butterflies, skippers and hummingbirds.

Upcoming at the Botanical Gardens

Wood ID with Ron Lance Sunday, June 2, 2–4 p.m.

Native plant specialist Ron Lance will show how the different cell types and their configurations affect our utility of wood. These characteristics can be as useful in identifying trees as in examining leaves or twigs. The program will introduce participants to the anatomical features of wood and reveal how the composition of the wood differs among many of our local trees. An 8x or 10x power hand lens will be useful for examining wood samples. Lance has more than 40 years of experience growing, studying and teaching about native plants. He has written several guides and keys for southeastern plants, including Woody Plants of the Blue Ridge, The Surveyor’s Guide to the Trees of North Carolina, and Woody Plants of the Southeastern United States: A Winter Guide.

Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for classes by calling 828.252.5190. Cost for the workshop is $15 for members and $20 for non-members.

The Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Learn more at

Leave a Comment