Scrophulariaceae: Figwort Family

Ngaio Tree – Myoporum laetum

Blooms:

Early spring

Plant Height:

3–10 m

Flower Size:

Medium

Origin:

New Zealand

Habitat:

Escape from cultivation

Notes:

This is a commonly cultivated shrub to small tree, much branched and broadly spreading. The leaves are lanceolate, bright green and fleshy, up to 10 cm long. Flowers are about 1 cm across, bell-shaped and white with purplish spots.

Bee Plant / Coast Figwort – Scrophularia californica

Blooms:

Mar–July

Plant Height:

80–120 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Damp places near coast

Notes:

This is very common, easily recognized by its large, coarsely serrated, opposite, nettle-like leaves, and by its many small, red to maroon flowers.  These produce copious amounts of nectar and, as the common name suggests, attract bees.  The upper corolla lip is erect and elongated.  The lower lip has a single lip which extends outward to form the nectar pouch.  After a taxonomic reorganization, this plant is one of the few survivors in the formerly extensive Figwort family.

Woolly / Common Mullein – Verbascum thapsus

Blooms:

June–Sept

Plant Height:

0.3–2 m

Flower Size:

Large

Origin:

Eurasia

Invasive?

Yes – limited

 Habitat:

Roadsides, streambanks & disturbed areas

Notes:

This plant is usually unbranched, though branching forms are occasionally found.  It is tall and distinctive, with large, lanceolate leaves (basal to 50 cm, cauline to 30 cm).   The cauline leaves are long-decurrent.  Flowers are in a tall spike, large (15–25 mm wide) and bright yellow.  The upper three filaments are white or yellow-hairy, and the lower two filaments glabrous or only sparsely hairy.

Although not recorded in the county, some branching mulleins may in fact be a separate species, Showy Mullein (Verbascum speciosum).  This has a candelabra-like appearance and several other subtle differences when compared to Woolly Mullein.