Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae)
Description: This native perennial plant is about 3-6' tall, branching occasionally. The stems are often 4-angled or furrowed; they are slightly hairy while young, but become glabrous with age. The opposite leaves are up to 8" long and 3" across (excluding the petioles), becoming somewhat smaller as they ascend the stems. They are cordate-ovate to ovate, serrated along the margins, thin-textured, and largely hairless. The petioles are long and slender; each petiole is at least one-fourth the length of the leaf blade. The upper stems terminate in an inflorescence consisting of pairs of cymes up to 2' tall. This inflorescence is somewhat cylindrical. There is usually a pair of slender bracts at the base of each pair of cymes. Each flower is about ¼" long and has a short cylindrical shape. The exterior of the tubular corolla is dull green, while its interior is predominantly reddish brown. This corolla has a divided upper lobe that functions as a hood, 2 short side lobes, and a lower lobe that curves downward. All of these lobes are reddish brown on the inside, except the lower lobe, which is green or yellow. Appressed against the upper interior of this corolla, there is an infertile stamen that is reddish brown or purple. The fertile stamens have yellow anthers; they are located toward the bottom of the corolla. The tubular calyx is green and shorter than the corolla; it has 5 blunt teeth. The slender pedicels are longer than the flowers. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall and lasts about a month; only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time. Each flower is replaced by a globular capsule that contains several seeds. The root system consists of a taproot.
Cultivation: The preference is light shade to partial sun, moist to mesic conditions, and a soil that is loamy or slightly sandy.
Range & Habitat: Late Figwort is a fairly common plant that has been observed in most counties of Illinois (see Distribution Map). Habitats include mesic deciduous woodlands, sandy woodlands, savannas, shady hillside seeps, woodland borders, thickets, and fence rows that are overgrown with trees. This species tolerates minor to moderate levels of disturbance.
Faunal Associations: The small flowers contain abundant nectar, which attracts various long-tongued bees, Halictid bees, wasps (including Vespid and Eumenid wasps), and the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. Halictid bees also collect pollen from the flowers. The caterpillars of the moth Elaphria chalcedonia (Chalcedony Midget) feed on the foliage, while Cosmopepla carnifex (Stink Bug sp.) sucks juices from the stems. Little appears to be known about the ecological relationships of Scrophularia spp. (Figworts) with birds and mammalian herbivores.
Photographic Location: Busey Woods in Urbana, Illinois. A small colony of Late Figwort was growing in a mesic area of this deciduous woodlands.
Comments: The Figworts have weird little flowers that attract many wasps and bees. They are not grown in gardens very often because these flowers are not very showy (by human standards). The only other Figwort that occurs in Illinois is Scrophularia lanceolata (Early Figwort). This species is less common than Late Figwort; it is restricted to northern Illinois. Early Figwort blooms a little earlier than Late Figwort (hence their common names), although their respective blooming periods overlap. The flowers of Early Figwort are a little longer than those of Late Figwort, and they have sterile stamens that are yellow, rather than reddish brown or purple (both of these are located along the upper interior of the corolla). The seed capsules of Early Figwort tend to be ovoid, while those of Late Figwort are more globular.