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Lycopus virginicus

Lycopus virginicus L.

 

Virginia Water Horehound, Sweet Bugleweed, Water Bugle, Carpenter’s Herb, Green Archangel, Purple Archangel, Paul’s Betony, Woodbetony, Wolf Foot, Egyptian’s Herb

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassAsteridaeA large class that encompasses asters
OrderLamialesAromatic herbs and shrubs, including lavender, lilac, olive, jasmine, ash, teak, snapdragon, sesame, psyllium, garden sage, mint, basil, and rosemary
FamilyLamiaceaeMint family
GenusLycopusFrom the Greek lykos, “wolf,” and pous, “foot”
SpeciesvirginicusFrom or referring to Virginia

About plant names...

Virginia water horehound is a North American native. “Hore­hound” is from “hore,” downy, and “hune,” an old English word for a type of plant. It prefers river banks, floodplains, wet meadows, clearings, and shores.

Plants: 15-36" (38-91 cm) tall, with an unbranched stem. It is erect, or sometimes leaning over against other plants. Stems are roughly square in cross-section, and covered with fine hairs which may point outward or lie flat against the stem (appressed). These plants often (but not always) lack the thick tuberous roots of other water-horehounds.

Leaves: 1-4½" (3-12 cm) × ⅜-1¾" (1-5 cm). Oval or lanceolate, unlobed, with coarsely toothed edges. The lowest teeth are a little below the mid-point of each leaf. Leaves are more egg-shaped than those other water-horehounds. Leaves are dark green or purple, and opposite. Leaves nearer the bottom have a short stalk, while those near the top are attached almost directly to the stem (i.e. sessile). Upper leaf surfaces are nearly hairless, while lower surfaces have a hairy central vein and may have fine hairs elsewhere.

Flowers: Flowers appear in tight clusters at leaf axils. They are tubular in shape, and each is about ⅜" (1 cm) long × ⅛" (3.2 mm) in diameter. They emerge in all directions from the axil. Flowers are white, with a few pink spots.

Fruits: Each flower is replaced by four small nutlets, packed together in roughly the shape of a square. Individual nutlets are ¹/₃₂-¹/₁₆" (1.3-2 mm) × ~¹/₃₂" (0.7-1.3 mm).

Edibility: Cherokee peoples “chewed the roots of Virginia water-horehound and fed them to infants to give them ‘eloquence of speech.’”

Medical: Virginia water horehound, and other members of Lycopus, have a long history of use in folk cures, but these have not be substantiated with formal studies. The plant does have mild sedative properties, and shows some promise in the treatment of some thyroid disorders, such as Grave’s disease and other forms of hyperthyroidism. For the same reason, it is dangerous for people with hypo­thyroism, myxedema, and enlargement of the thyroid. It should not be taken by pregnant mothers.

Members of Lycopus, the water-horehounds, are notor­iously hard to distinguish. They are also easily confused with some members of other genera. Here are some comparisons.

 

Lycopus virginicus (Virginia Water Horehound, Sweet Bugleweed, Water Bugle, Carpenter’s Herb, Green Archangel, Purple Archangel, Paul’s Betony, Woodbetony, Wolf Foot, Egyptian’s Herb)

8/26/2018 · Henry E. Cowdrey Nature Center, Lunenburg, MA
≈ 5 × 7" (13 × 18 cm)

 
Lycopus americanus

Lycopus uniflorus
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Lycopus virginicus
Common Name

American Water-horehound

Northern Bugleweed

Virginia Water Horehound
Plant 12-36" (30-91 cm) tall, unbranched or sparingly branched, sometimes sprawling. The main stem is four-angled and ridged, and hairless or nearly so. 4-20" (10-50 cm) tall, usually straight or with a few branches. Stems are four-angled and almost hairless. 15-36" (38-91 cm) tall, with an unbranched stem. It is erect, or sometimes leaning. Stems are roughly square in cross-section, and covered with fine hairs which may point outward or lie flat against the stem (appressed). These plants often (but not always) lack the thick tuberous roots of other water-horehounds.
Flowers In small clusters at leaf axils. Individual flowers are ⅛" (3.2 mm) in size, and white, with tiny purplish spots. They are tubular in shape, emerging in all directions from leaf axils. Flowers occur in dense clusters at leaf axils. They are tubular, reaching in every direction from the leaf axil, and about ⅛" (3.2 mm) around at the end. Flowers appear in tight clusters at leaf axils. They are tubular in shape, and each is about ⅜" (1 cm) long × ⅛" (3.2 mm) in diameter. They emerge in all directions from the axil. Flowers are white, with a few pink spots.
Leaves Lower leaves are deeply lobed, and up to 3½" (8.9 cm) long × 1½" (3.8 cm) wide. Leaves are narrowly oval, narrowly oblong, or linear. They are opposite, becoming smaller near the top, and coarsely toothed. Upper leaf surfaces are typically hairless. Up to 3" (7.6 cm) long × 1" (2.5 cm) wide. They are hairless or nearly so, with 2-7 teeth on each side of the leaf. The leaves are opposite, and each pair are rotated 90° from the previous pair. 1-4½" (3-12 cm) × ⅜-1¾" (1-5 cm). Oval or lanceolate, unlobed, with coarsely toothed edges. The lowest teeth are a little below the mid-point of each leaf. Leaves are more egg-shaped than those other water-horehounds. Leaves are dark green or purple, and opposite. Leaves nearer the bottom have a short stalk, while those near the top are attached almost directly to the stem. Upper leaf surfaces are nearly hairless, while lower surfaces have a hairy central vein and may have fine hairs elsewhere.
Fruit Nutlets are in groups of four, together forming a square shape. Each is ¹/₃₂-¹/₁₆" (1.2-1.7 mm) long. Nutlets are ¹/₃₂-¹/₁₆" (1-2 mm), in groups of four. Each flower is replaced by four small nutlets, packed in roughly the shape of a square. Nutlets are ¹/₃₂-¹/₁₆" (1.3-2 mm) × ~¹/₃₂" (0.7-1.3 mm).
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 4-8

Habitats Lake and river shores, and wetland edges. Wet areas such shores, swamps, marshes, wet meadows, and stream banks. River banks, floodplains, wet meadows, clearings, and shores.
Type Wild Wild Wild
Occurrence      

 

 
Leonurus cardiaca
Common Name

Motherwort
Plant 24-39" (60-100 cm) high. The stems are square in cross-section. Their preference for dryer habitats distinguishes them from water horehounds.
Flowers Between each pair of leaves, a tuft of small pink-purple flowers appear directly on the stem, becoming more closely spaced near the top
Leaves Leaves are opposite. Pairs of leaves extend from the stem every inch or so, in alternating directions exactly at right angles to each other, looking almost unnaturally orderly. Leaves are dark green, and are 2-4" (5-10 cm) long. Younger leaves have three pointed tips, while older ones are further divided.

Fruit Each flower becomes 4 reddish brown or brown nutlets. Each nutlet is 3-sided.
Range/ Zones

Habitats Woodland borders, disturbed open woodlands, and partially shaded yard edges.
Type Wild
Occurrence Common

 

Online References:

Lycopus virginicus on illinoiswildflowers.info

Lycopus virginicus on gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org

Lycopus virginicus on Wikipedia

Lycopus virginicus at Minnesota Wildflowers

Lycopus virginicus on www.scu.edu.au

References:

Clemants, Steven; Gracie, Carol, Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 342

Weakley, Alan S.; Ludwig, J. Christopher; Townsend, John F.; Crowder, Bland (Ed.), Flora of Virginia, Botanical Research Institute of Texas Press, 2013, p. 667

Lycopus virginicus description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 29 Aug 2019.

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Range:

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