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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Scorpionweed (Phacelia hastata)

Found only in extreme southwestern North Dakota, scorpionweed also occurs west to Washington and south to California, Nevada, and Colorado at elevations up to 11,000 ft.

Scorpionweed grows as a multi-stemmed perennial from a thick taproot with a woody top. Plants are usually about a foot tall. Dense short hairs lend plants a grayish-green color. Leaves are about 2-4 inches long and spoon-shaped; some may be lobed. About the upper half of the plant consists of branched flowering spikes. Flowers are crowded in small clusters on one side of the spikes that are coiled into twisted "S" shapes. Each spike may have 5-50 purplish flowers about 1/4-inch long. The numerous brown stamens are conspicuous because they protrude far beyond the flower petals. Each flower produces a tiny capsule with one or two seeds.

Look for scorpionweed in sandy-to-rocky prairie in the badlands where soil has been disturbed, as around corrals and mammal diggings, or on steep slopes where soil has slid or washed away. More plants seem to be found in heavily grazed pastures. Phacelias are cultivated as a honey-producing crop in some countries, and some are ornamentals, but I found no mention of economic uses for the species discussed here.

This plant is a member of the waterleaf family (Hydrophyllaceae). This is a small family of about 18 genera and 275 species found mostly in the western United States. The genus Phacelia (from the Greek phakelos "a fascicle," in reference to the clustered flowers) is by far the largest, with about 130 species in the Americas. The specific epithet hastata means "with lobes directed outwards" in botanical Latin, in reference to the calyx lobes. This species was first described for science under a different scientific name by Nicolaus Joseph Baron von Jacquin (1727-1817), professor of botany and director of the botanic garden, Vienna.

Return to Hydrophyllaceae (The Waterleaf Family)

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