Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Leonard’s Skullcap

Leonard’s Skullcap, Scutellaria leonardii, is for people who like to get down on their hands and knees to look at tiny plants. At Blue Jay Barrens, this plant seldom reaches more than six inches tall and is extremely easy to miss. For those who take the time to look, the plant provides a beautiful visage.

A tough narrow stem, tiny waxy leaves and short stature make this a plant designed to survive in a tough environment and that’s exactly where you’ll find it. This skullcap is found in areas of bare soil where the topsoil has been lost and active erosion, heat and drought make it difficult for other plants to take hold.

Soil collars, made of soil particles splashed up during rains, have formed around the bases of these plants. Even with half the leaves covered by dried mud, these plants thrive. Skullcaps are perennials and must have an amazing root system to survive in these areas without frost heaving out of the bare ground during winter.

Another area of poor soil with a healthy population of Leonard’s Skullcap. The plants on the right are leaning as a result of the bare bank slipping down hill during a time of soil saturation this spring.

You miss a lot when you always look from the standing position. Get close to the ground and discover a new world.

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