Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Lanceleaf Figwort - Scrophularia lanceolata   Pursh
Members of Scrophulariaceae:
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Section 6 » Order Scrophulariales » Family Scrophulariaceae
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DistributionVery poorly known, and remarkably confused for such a seemingly obvious plant species! There are collection records from three widely dispersed counties in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, a photo record for Ashe County in the northern Mountains, and specimens at GH for Avery and Burke counties. A specimen at WILLI was annotated to lanceolata from marilandica. Currently known only from a population in Guilford County, in the northern Piedmont; see photo below; plus a recent record for Ashe County. A long-overlooked specimen, collected in 1951 in Craven County, was recently found and verified; S. marilandica occurs elsewhere in that county. A misidentified specimen of S. marilandica from Lincoln County, in 1969, was recently annotated to S. lanceolata. The BONAP map shows records for Avery and Buncombe counties in the Mountains, Burke and Durham counties in the Piedmont, and Jones County in the Coastal Plain! As the species is recorded from nearly half of the VA counties, including most of the Mountain counties, as well as many in the Piedmont and even in the southern Coastal Plain, it is surprising that there are so few confirmed records in NC! What the actual range, today, in NC is unknown.

This is a wide-ranging Northern species, ranging from Canada south to VA, IL, OK, NM, and northern CA. It occurs sparingly into NC, a few county records for SC; no records known for GA and very few for TN.
AbundancePuzzlingly very rare in NC, certainly under-collected or observed, or more likely overlooked or misidentified as the much more numerous and widespread S. marilandica (as several specimens were). This is a Significantly Rare species in the state.
HabitatOne would think that the rarer of the two Scrophularia species in NC would have the more specific and scarce of the habitats in the state, but the opposite seems to be true. Whereas as S. marilandica occurs mostly on the infrequent high pH soil areas in the state, S.lanceolata occurs in typical dry to dry-mesic upland hardwood forests, probably over slightly acidic soils. The only reason for its scarcity in such common habitats must be that it favors cooler microclimates than regularly found in NC. However, one must wonder if the Craven (and possibly Jones) record was from a forested area over marl (high pH soil), as species usually disjunct from the Piedmont to those counties tend to be ones that grow on high pH soil. One website editor (Sorrie) has seen this species in several prairie and grassy woodland habitats in the Midwest; this suggests that in the East it originally may have occurred in prairie-like openings.
PhenologyBlooms from May into early July, and fruits shortly after flowering. Note that S. marilandica flowers from mid-July onward, and thus the flowering of these two do not overlap.
IdentificationThis is a fairly robust and tall species, growing to about 3-4 feet tall, often somewhat leaning. It has scattered opposite leaves, each on a long petiole about 1-inch in length. The leaf blade is ovate to ovate-lanceolate, about 4-5 inches long and about 2.5 inches wide, with quite large serrations. The top of the stem contains the wide open panicle, about 4-5 inches long and rather cylindrical --- about as wide at the bottom as near the top. There are several dozen small flowers, each looking like a small preacher standing in a pulpit; in this species, the flower is yellow-green on the outside and pale brown to reddish inside. The "preacher" is actually a sterile filament, and it is also yellow-green in this species, and it is purple-brown in the other. Thus, to separate these two, note that S. marilandica has very finely serrated leaves (each tooth less than 3 mm long), a pyramid-shaped panicle instead of more cylindrical, and a purple-brown sterile filament. Also note that S. marilandica does not begin blooming in the state until at least mid-July, after S. lanceolata should be finished.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)American Figwort, Early Figwort
State RankS1
Global RankG5
State StatusSR-P
US Status
USACE-agcpFAC link
USACE-empFACU link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
Photo Gallery
B.A. SorriePhoto taken June 2018, Ordway Prairie, E of Brooten, MN. LincolnPhoto_natural
Harry LeGrand18 June 2014

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