In the oak woods where shade is deep in summer, there come two purple flowers, the tall bellflower and the skullcap. They do notl seem to need much sun in which to grow tall and blossom abundantly all through the hot steamy days of late summer. There in the Illinois oak woods where the mosquitoes are violent and the wood thrush nests on an overhanging bough, the intricate flowers of skullcap start to bloom at the base of the bud stalk and work their way to the top.
Scutellaria ovata Hill.
June - July Woods.
Skullcap is one of the mints hut it has no aromatic odor. It does, however, have the characteristic squarish stem and opposite leaves, and is downy, the leaves veiny and scallop-toothed. The flower stalks spring from the top of the stem and bear many purple buds which elongate and burst open as tubular, bright purple and white flowers with drooping lips.
The calyx which enfolds the base of the tube and contains the ovary undergoes a certain change when the flower has finished blooming, and it is this change which gave the name of Scutellaria to the skullcap - scutella, meaning "little dish". For the seeds form in the transformed calyx which is like a tiny dish with a lid. or a tight little box holding the developing seeds. When these are ripe and the pod is dry. it splits its lid around where it is fastened and the seeds fall out on the wind.
Several other skullcaps are found in Illinois. Mad-dog skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) with its thin racemes of small blue flowers is found in swamps and wet places. Small skullcap (Scutellaria parcula) is found in moist, cool places in woods with a northward slope.