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Last year I was fascinated by these neat plants that I came across in my neighborhood – they were blue and always grew very neatly under hedges or planted in narrow spaces and ledges. All of those I saw were blue last year. This year, we got our own plant, but in pink and a much larger and taller form.


Scutellaria is a perennial (often creeping) whose common name is Scullcaps. The plant belongs to the genus Scutellaria in the mint family and are herbaceous, slender rarely shrubby plants (with a few annuals and aquatics) with over 300 species scattered over different parts of the world in temperate regions and tropical mountains, abundant in American. The name comes from the Latin word scutella which means a small saucer or dish, referring to the calyx in the fruiting stage. The plant has four angled stems and opposite leaves. The flowers have upper and lower lips like penstemons. The flowers are in pairs, each growing from the axils of the upper, leaf-like bracts, which are quite indistinguishable from the true leaves, and are all turned one way, the pedicels being very short. The corollas are bright blue, variegated with white inside, the tube long and curved, three or four times as long as the calyx, the lips short, the lower lip having three shallow lobes.


Among the cultivated species are S. micrantha, from Siberia and the north of China, a handsome species with spiked racemes of blue flowers; and S. Coccinea, from Mexico, with scarlet flowers.

Species native to Japan include:


– Scutellaria indica: E. Asia – China, Japan, Korea. It is in flower from June to August, and the seeds ripen from July to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies. Succeeds in a sunny position in any ordinary garden soil that does not dry out during the growing season. This species grows well in a rock garden. Source: Flora of Japan


This is a tatsunamisou or Scutellaria indica var. japonica. It is a native of Japan, with another closely related species Scutellaria pekinensis from China. It is in the family or group of mint and dead nettles which explains why I nearly mistook it for a dead nettle. 

– Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi: transplanted from Korea since 10th century. The scutellaria root is used as the key ingredient in “saiboku-to” kampo Chinese/Japanese medicine used to treat bronchial asthma. An extract of the Scutellaria Root in tests markedly inhibited eotaxin production. Eotaxin is an eosinophil-specific chemokine associated with the recruitment of eosinophils to sites of allergic inflammation. This skullcap is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs and is used primarily in treating “hot and damp” conditions such as dysentery and diarrhoea[218, 254]. It has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years and recent research has found that the roots contain flavonoids that greatly enhance liver function and also have anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic effects


Scutellaria laeteviolacea is also a little scutellaria from Japan, that spreads via short rhizomes to form a dense clump of erect purple stems clad in small woolly rugose leaves, atop which are full spikes of relavely large blue-purple flowers.  


Some other Japanese scutellaria found in the woods may be looked at here.




Note: The various species of Scutellaria will grow in any ordinary garden soil, preferring sunny, open borders, where they will live much longer and grow more strongly than on a rich soil, though they seldom continue more than two or three years. Plant seeds in March or April, 6 inches apart. The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil. If you are getting scutellarias, since it self-sows with some enthusiasm, it is best planted in the larger rock or raised garden, among taller plants.


Medicinal Action and Uses—Scullcap has strong tonic, nervine and antispasmodic action, and is slightly astringent. In hysteria, convulsions, hydrophobia, St. Vitus’s dance and rickets, its action is invaluable. In nervous headaches, neuralgia and in headache arising from incessant coughing and pain, it offers one of the most suitable and reliable remedies. The dried extract, given in doses of from 1 to 3 grains as a pill, will relieve severe hiccough. Many cases of hydrophobia have been cured by this remedy alone.

Plants fall into three groups when used in the garden:

1) Rock garden plants for full sun and blooming mostly in the summer. They should be grown in well drained, even rocky soil and they like a calcareous loamy soil mix. These low growing plants need sun and dry conditions to do their best. S. alpine, S. baicalensis, S. orientalis, S. scordiifolia, S.indica.

2) Perennial boarder plants for sun to open shade, they are often sun loving plants but a few are woodland species. S. altissima, S. incana.

3) Large coarse plants for naturalizing in a wild flower garden type setting. S. lateriflora.
Most of the species do not like rich organic soils, so do not over feed. When starting the seeds use a soil mix with generous amounts of coarse grit and do not over water. Soak seeds for 24 hours before sowing. 


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