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Family: Scrophulariaceae Juss.

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Family Parent: Scrophulariales Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • FOXGLOVE FAMILY - English, United States of America
  • FIGWORT FAMILY - English, United States of America
  • SNAPDRAGON FAMILY - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Family Recognition in the Field: Herbs similar to the Lamiaceae (MINTS) (e.g., the usually bilaterally symmetrical, often 2-lipped corollas and stamens usually 2 or 4) but differing in usually having many-seeded capsule fruits (versus fruits usually of 4 one-seeded nutlets in the Lamiaceae); the corollas and stamen number distinguish the family from the somewhat similar Solanaceae which has radially symmetrical corollas and 5 stamens.

Diagnosis: Ours annual or perennial herbs; leaves basal, alternate, or opposite, simple or compound, entire, toothed, or lobed; stipules absent; flowers axillary or terminal, solitary or in whorls, spikes, racemes, or panicles; sepals separate or united; corollas nearly radially symmetrical and 4- to 5- lobed, to very bilaterally symmetrical and 2-lipped (= bilabiate); stamens 2, 4 (in some genera there is also a staminode), or rarely 5 and slightly unequal; pistil 2-carpellate; ovary superior; style 1; stigmas 1 or 2; locules mostly 2; capsules many-seeded.


Notes: A large (5,100 species in 269 genera), cosmopolitan, but especially temperate and tropical mountain family of mostly herbs with some trees and shrubs. A number of genera are grown as ornamentals including Antirrhinum (SNAPDRAGONS), Calceolaria (SLIPPER-FLOWERS), Digitalis (FOXGLOVE), Leucophyllum (e.g., L. frutescens (Berland.) I.M. Johnst., TEXAS PURPLE-SAGE, CENIZA), and Penstemon (BEARDTONGUES). Digitalis purpurea L., COMMON FOXGLOVE, is also the source of the heart drugs digitalin and digoxin used to treat conditions including congestive heart failure by increasing the force of systolic contractions; its therapeutic use has been traced back to the 10th century; [a PLANT OF TOXIC/ POISONOUS NATURE]. all parts of the plant are potentially fatally poisonous to humans and animals due to the presence of cardiac glycosides (Morton 1977). Some species of Scrophulariaceae are hemiparasites and can be serious weeds in certain parts of the world (e.g., Striga-WITCHWEED). Many scrophs have flowers similar to those of mints; however, the capsular fruits clearly distinguish the Scrophulariaceae. The family also has affinities to the Gesneriaceae (AFRICAN-VIOLET FAMILY) and Bignoniaceae (CATALPA FAMILY). While we are treating it traditionally, according to Reeves and Olmstead (1993) and Olmstead and Reeves (1995), the Scrophulariaceae is polyphyletic; some members of the family as traditionally viewed are in a clade more closely related to the Acanthaceae, Lamiaceae, and Verbenaceae. Reeves and Olmstead (1993) and Olmstead and Reeves (1995) further indicated that the Plantaginaceae and Callitrichaceae are in a clade with some Scrophulariaceae; this would suggest that these families be included in the Scrophulariaceae. The uncertainty seen here in regard to the boundaries of families is indicative of the current dynamic nature of the study of plant evolution driven in part by recent work in molecular systematics. (subclass Asteridae)