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)

      • Annuals or herbaceous perennials, shrubs, and trees; plants generally with glandular hairs (hairs that secrete sticky or oily substances)
      • 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
      • 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 flower 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

          Figwort. 2014. Encyclopædia Britannica.

          Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family