Figwort Family

Bee Plant © EKennedy

Scrophulariaceae (skrof-yoo-larr-ee-AY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Generally glandular
  • Leaves simple; usually entire and alternate
  • Flower a two-lipped tube or bell

Description (Jepson)

  • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
    • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
    • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
    • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
    • Taproot system
  • Annuals or herbaceous perennials, shrubs, and trees; plants generally with glandular hairs (hairs that secrete sticky or oily substances)
  • Leaves
    • Simple (not divided into leaflets), generally entire (with smooth margins)
    • Generally alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
      • At Edgewood the only plant in this family, bee plant (Scrophularia californica), has opposite leaves
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) in many forms
      • Usually with bracts (modified leaves) at base
    • Bilaterally-symmetrical, bell- or tube-shaped, generally bisexual flowers
      • 5 fused sepals (usually green, outer flower parts)
      • 4-5 fused petals, divided top and bottom into 2 distinctly-shaped sets (lips)
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit a capsule (a dry, multi-chambered fruit that splits open at maturity)


  • Approximately 1,700 species worldwide
    • Includes butterfly bush and bee plant
  • Scientific name from the included genus Scrophularia, from the resemblance of the rhizomal knobs of some species to human lymph nodes affected by tuberculosis, called scrophula (now scrofula); and/or named for the plant’s supposed ability to cure this disease
  • Common name from the use of plants in the genus to treat hemorrhoids, an ailment once known as “figs,” and the suffix “-wort,” from the Old English wyrt, “plant,”
    • The suffix “-wort” was commonly used for medicinal plants; the word that precedes the suffix usually refers to the treated ailment
  • This family was greatly reduced in the 2012 Jepson based on genetic evidence; take care not to rely on older family descriptions
  • Represented by 2 species at Edgewood, one of which is non-native

See General References

Specific References

Encyclopædia Britannica. 2014. Figwort. Britannica.

Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family