Lopseed is an erect native perennial growing from 1 to 3 feet high on square, sometimes purple stems.
The leaves are simple, opposite, ovate to lanceolate, with coarse teeth, dull green on top, hairless, while the underside is paler in color and has sparse hair on the veins. The tips are pointed, the bases wedge shape to truncate. The lower leaves have long stalks, are up to 5 inches long, while the upper leaves are smaller and have very short stalks or are stalkless.
The inflorescence is a tall, thin, terminal spike (a raceme); occasionally with other spikes branching from a leaf axil. These take on a purplish color tone. Flowers open from the bottom of the spike upward. Both the raceme and the short flower stalks have fine hair.
The flowers are very pretty but small, being 1/4 inch wide. They have white 5-parted corollas, often with purplish external color, with a long calyx tube attached to the stem of the raceme with a very short pedicle. They occur opposite each other and stand straight out from the stem. Each flower corolla forms two lips, with the lower lip being composed of three lobes while the upper lip has two lobes but appears as simply notched. There are four stamens with white filaments, in pairs of unequal length, with pale yellow anthers and a single style with a bifurcated stigma at the tip. The outer calyx has 5 finger-like pointed lobes - 3 on front of the calyx and 2 on the back; they are long and purple colored, and two back ones are shorter. The base of the flower stalk has a pair of small green bracts. Usually buds, flowers, and seed pods will be visible from top to bottom.
Seed: After fertilization, the corolla drops away and the calyx bends downward against the raceme as the seed forms. Seed pods hang downward, producing a dry, tan capsule. The old calyx persists and its teeth form the teeth on the capsule which form long hooks as they dry. The capsule contains a single oblong brown achene 3 to 4 mm long. Best plant regeneration comes from seeds dispersed by animals. Seeds require 60 days of cold stratification for germination.
Habitat: Lopseed grows in moist rich woods where there is light to medium shade and wet-mesic to dry-mesic moisture conditions. It grows from a branching shallow horizontal root system.
Names: The genus name Phryma, has a contested background derivation but is taken today to refer the the Lopseeds. The species name, leptostachya, is taken from leptos, meaning 'thin' and stachya, meaning 'spike' and then Latinized and meaning "slender-spiked". The author name for the plant classification, 'L.', refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy.
New Family: For years Lopseed was classified in the Verbena (Verbenaceae) family. P. leptostachya has recently been assigned, after a century of discussion, to a new family of plants, the Phrymaceae, based on modern DNA analysis and the seed capsule design. This discussion of family change goes back to the early 1900s when botanists first suggested it. (see The Botanical Gazette, Vol. LVI, July-Dec. 1913.) This modern abstract discusses the family change as it pertains to P. leptostachya. This second lengthy abstract (1.8mb) has more detail on the Phrymaceae family structure and concentrates on the Mimulus genus.
Comparisons: Unique to identify.
Above: The upper section of a plant. Additional racemes can rise from the upper leaf axils. Drawing from Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
Below: The inflorescence and flower detail of American Lopseed. Note the purple pointed lobes of the flower calyx
Below: 1st photo - The lobes of the calyx are divided into a longer set of 3 on the top and a shorter set of 2 on the base. Flowers open perpendicular to the rachis of the raceme. 2nd photo - The underside of the leaf is paler in color and has sparse hair on all the veins.
Below: The maturing seed capsules with the teeth of the flower calyx forming hooked teeth at the top of the capsule. Each capsule contains one oblong achene - shown here in the green state, turning brown at maturity.s
Below: 1st photo - The shape of the plant, this one having several flower racemes. 2nd photo - Coarse toothed leaves, lower on long stalks, dull green upper surface. 3rd photo - Maturing seed pods hanging downward along the stem of the inflorescence. Note the purple calyx lobes which will become stiff hooked teeth.
Below: 1st & 2nd photos - The inflorescence branches from an upper leaf axil, here with 3 branches of the inflorescence which usually have a reddish-purplish color tone. All parts of the stem have coarse short hairs. 3rd photo - Beneath the notched upper lip of the corolla are 4 stamens - in pairs of unequal length.
Below: Side flowering spikes normally emerge in opposite pairs from the leaf axil of the up-most pair of opposite leaves.
Notes: Lopseed is indigenous to the Garden area. Eloise Butler catalogued in on Sept. 6, 1907. Lopseed is found in North America from the Great Plains eastward to the coast; in Canada from Manitoba eastward. In Minnesota it is found throughout the state except in a few widely scattered counties and the Arrowhead. It is also found in East Asia.
P. leptostachya var. leptostachya is the only species of Phryma found in Minnesota or in North America. A second variety exists in Asia - var. asiatica and the two are quite similar which has long interested botanists due to the large geographic separation.
Uses: There are few references to the use of the plant for medicinal uses. Densmore (Ref.5) lists it as being used for a sore throat remedy, but does not give details. One established use for the plant is in insect (particularly mosquito) repellent. The plant contains molecules that are natural insecticides. Details in this article from Molecular Sciences.
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Identification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"