False Dragonhead (Obedient Plant)

Physostegia virginiana
Lamiaceae (mints)

Native perennial with single or sparingly branched, hairless stems that are square in cross-section. Flowers in long, terminal and a few lateral spikes, tightly spaced in vertical rows, pink to pale lilac with darker purplish markings, funnel-shaped with a hoodlike upper lip and a 3-divided lower lip, lacking scent. Blooms May–September. Leaves opposite, stalkless, narrowly lance-shaped, sharply toothed, to 5 inches long.

Similar species: Two other "false dragonheads" occur in Missouri, both with more limited ranges. P. angustifolia has less-dense flowering spikes and thicker, narrower leaves; it occurs only in the southern half of the state. P. intermedia has smaller flowers and few or no teeth on the leaves; it is limited to swampy areas of our southwestern counties.

Height: to 4 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in moist soils of fields, prairies, thickets, woodland openings and borders, along rivers and streams, and lakesides.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Human connections: 
Often grown in flower gardens; special cultivars have been developed. Can spread aggressively. Called “obedient plant” because flowers, when pushed from their normal position, will remain for a while where they have been turned. "True" dragonhead is a similar-looking species that grows in Europe.
Ecosystem connections: 
Bumblebees, other bees, and hummingbirds visit the flowers. Not many mammals eat the leaves.
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