Obedient Plant

This week for Flora and Fauna Friday we have yet another noticeable wetland wildflower, Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana).

Obedient Plant is found sporadically within the South Carolina Lowcountry. It’s not a particularly common native wildflower here but it is a widespread staple of home gardens and easy to source at native plant nurseries. It prefers wet meadows, freshwater marsh margins, and sunny floodplains, all not too common habitats here in South Carolina. Obedient Plant grows two to three feet in height. It spreads laterally beneath the ground and forms loose clumping colonies. It has an upright posture with stems growing straight up, branches held aloft, and leaves held straight out. The leaves are oppositely arranged and easily identified by their simple, elliptical shape and saw-toothed margins. Obedient Plant is in the mint family, Lamiaceae, and proudly demonstrates its family’s trademark square stems. Yet its flowers are still the trademark identifier. Flowers bloom at the uppermost tips of the stems and branches. Individual flowers are arranged together into a spike, with each flower emerging directly from the stem, and together the flower buds form a tall and tight-knit spire above the main plant. Individual flowers bloom from the base of the spike upward. There are often a dozen or more open at once, all packed closely together. Each flower is a blend of magenta and white, giving the flower a pale pink color from a distance. The petals of each flower are fused together into a bilaterally symmetrical corolla, shaped a bit like a pitcher. The peak bloom time of Obedient Plant is mid-September and it is a wonderful nectar plant for pollinators, particularly our native bees. It’s also a good addition to any backyard garden and grows well in garden beds with rich, moist soils.

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