Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
This species is a native annual that grows from seed each year. Robust plants stand about 18 inches tall, but 6-8 inch specimens are the rule. Rough gerardia has what its name implies, a sandpapery feel to the stem and leaves. The wiry, inconspicuous leaves are about an inch long. A striking feature of the plant is the numerous large flowers. They are rose-purple and nearly an inch long. Fruits are capsules about 1/2 inch long filled with angular seeds.
Look for rough gerardia in sandy native prairie. The plant is never abundant and so is of little importance as livestock forage. There are no other known economic uses for rough gerardia. All Gerardias turns black when dry and disappoint those who collect and press plants for a hobby.
Gerardia was named in honor of John Gerard (1545-1612), author of the Great Herbal, a famous early book on plants.
Rough gerardia belongs to the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae), so called because some of the plants were supposed to cure scrophula and remove figwarts. The family contains about 4,000 species and includes foxglove (source of the drug digitalis) and the snapdragons. The generic name Agalinis means "remarkable flax" in botanical Latin. There are about 60 species in this genus that formerly was named Gerardia. All are found in temperate areas of the Western Hemisphere. The specific epithet aspera means "harsh" in reference to the scabrous stem and leaves. Rough gerardia was first described for science by the English botanist George Bentham (1800-1884). He and a contemporary, Sir William Hooker, donated the plant specimens that formed the core holdings of the famed herbarium at the Royal Garden of Kew, which today houses the worlds largest scientific plant collection.