Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant)
|Also known as:||False Dragonhead|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist soil, along streams, wet fields|
|Bloom season:||August - October|
|Plant height:||1 to 4 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Tall spike up to 10 inches long at the top of the stem, often with shorter, lateral spikes and arising from the uppermost leaf axils. Flowers are tubular, about 1 inch long, pink to purple or occasionally white. The lower lip has 3 lobes; the middle is broadest and has dark pinkish purple spots on the inside. 4 purple-tipped stamens arc against the wide upper lip. The hairless calyx is tubular and has 5 sharply pointed triangular lobes. Flowers bloom from the bottom of the spike up.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are up to 5 inches long and 1½ inches wide, lance-elliptic or widest just above the middle, hairless, sharply toothed with pointed tips. The lowest leaves are short-stalked and wither away early; upper leaves are stalkless. Stems are square, hairless, and somewhat swollen at the leaf nodes. Plants can create colonies from spreading rhizomes.
Obedient Plant gets its common name from the fact the individual flowers can be repositioned and will continue to grow that way. It does well in a home garden, though can become a bit aggressive in moist soil; it is better behaved in drier soils and is easily managed with a bit of hand pulling. There are 2 recognized varieties (or subspecies, depending on the reference): var. praemorsa, a more southern species that lacks rhizomes, and var. virginiana that is found throughout the eastern half of North America and is present in Minnesota.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dzuik taken at Louisville Swamp, Scott County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?