This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - Dull purple pink, pale purple, or white, small, clustered in axils of upper leaves. Calyx tubular, bell-shaped, with 5 rigid awl-like teeth; corolla 2-lipped, upper lip arched, woolly without; lower lip 3-lobed, spreading, mottled; the tube with oblique ring of hairs inside. Four twin-like stamens, anterior pair longer, reaching under upper lip; style 2-cleft at summit. Stem: 2 to 5 ft. tall, straight, branched, leafy, purplish. Leaves: Opposite, on slender petioles; lower ones rounded, 2 to 4 in. broad, palmately cut into 2 to 5 lobes; upper leaves narrower, 3-cleft or 3-toothed.
Preferred Habitat - Waste places near dwellings.
Flowering Season - June - September.
Distribution - Nova Scotia southward to North Carolina, west to Minnesota and Nebraska. Naturalized from Europe and Asia.
"One is tempted to say that the most human plants, after all, are the weeds," says John Burroughs. "How they cling to man and follow him around the world, and spring up wherever he sets foot! How they crowd around his barns and dwellings, and throng his garden, and jostle and override each other in their strife to be near him! Some of them are so domestic and familiar, and so harmless withal, that one comes to regard them with positive affection. Motherwort, catnip, plantain, tansy, wild mustard - what a homely, human look they have! They are an integral part of every old homestead. Your smart, new place will wait long before they draw near it."
How the bees love this generous, old-fashioned entertainer! One nearly always sees them clinging to the close whorls of flowers that are strung along the stem, and of course transferring pollen, in recompense, as they journey on. A more credulous generation imported the plant for its alleged healing virtues. What is the significance of its Greek name, meaning a lion's tail? Let no one suggest, by a far-stretched metaphor, that our grandmothers, in Revolutionary days, enjoyed pulling it to vent their animosity against the British.