Scuttelaria suffrutescens ‘Texas Rose’ is a pink-flowering skullcap that’s actually from Mexico.  It’s surprised Southern gardeners with its charm and durability. It’s a neatly mounding sub-shrub to one foot tall and about twice that wide with fine leaves and twigs.  It sports bright pink snapdragon flowers and makes a shiny addition to the front of any border or as specimens massed.  In mild winters here in the Pineywoods, it’s evergreen and has never failed to perform well if given just a little attention.

Scuttelaria suffrutescens-1a

P.C. Standley describes the type specimen from Coahuila, Sierra de la Silla near Monterrey, as a small shrub.  While more popular in the gardens of central and west Texas, this plant deserves greater use in the dry, sunny gardens of East Texas with Zones 8 and 9 most suitable.  We have found that good specimens always elicit some kind of urge to pet the plant – probably because the mound appears and happens to be very firm to the touch.  The plant has a bright show in May and early June and the blooming period persists throughout the summer and fall if under decent horticulture. It ends to rebloom after rainfall events.

scuttelaria bicentennial garden

‘Texas Rose’ Scuttelaria in the Bicentennial Garden, Houston, Texas

 

There are now a number of pink-flowering forms of this species appearing in mostly western nurseries and they appear under different names including ‘Cherry skullcap’, ‘Mexican pink skullcap’, to ‘Texas Rose’.  I suspect but can’t prove they are all the same clone or seedlings of the clone that goes all the way back to an expedition to Mexico with Lynn Lowrey and Ray Jordan in October 1987.  From the Friends of the SFA Mast Arboretum Newsletter # 5 and if you’ll please forgive that this is an ancient scan and a few pages are out of order, there’s some interesting information that can be found HERE:

http://sfagardens.sfasu.edu/images/files/Documents/Newsletters/lh%20October%201987.pdf.

This chronicles an interesting expedition to the San Madre Oriental mountains with Lynn Lowrey and Ray Jordan back in a time that Mexico was peaceful and inviting.  In that piece, I wrote that, “after backtracking east to the main road that runs between Montemerellos and Monterrey, we made one last side excursion to Chipinque.  The mountain town and associated forest is home for thousands of Mexican redbuds, numerous oaks, and a forest floor of salvias and penstemons.  On one hike, a large-flowered Phaseolus vine was spotted, and, according to Lynn, the best find of the trip, a skullcap colony, Scuttelaria species.  This rhizomatous, perennial herb made a strong attractive ground cover in a few sun-lit forest pockets.”

Scuttelaria suffrutescens-5a

Actually, as I remember the find, I said, “Lynn, what’s that plant with the pink flowers,” and Lynn responded, “what flowers?” Amazingly, I came to learn that Lynn was red color blind and could only discern reds, pinks and greens when they were real close to his eyes.  This always leads me astray.  One of the great plantsmen of all time, my friend JC Raulston, had no sense of smell.  When folks ask what’s wrong with me, I usually say, “I’m somewhat addled.”

This particular trip had as a goal primarily the collection of oak and other fall seeds that we encountered.  One of those oaks was Quercus rysophylla and one of those seedlings ended up in the garden here at SFA, a towering giant that I think is the #2 size wise in the nation.  Peckerewood has the biggest.  In the case of the Scuttelaria, a few cuttings were taken and rooted easily at SFA.  As we were about to cross back into Texas, we stopped at a favorite cantina to clean seed, organize cuttings, remove any soil from root systems all in an effort to make it through the USDA inspection station.  I can remember Lynn remarking the little skullcap was probably the best find of the trip.  Well, it certainly found its way into the market and google world.  We have found the plant easy to root under mist and plants should be moved soon after the first root initials make their appearance.  Leaving cuttings in mist after rooting too long can result in dead cuttings.

This is full sun plant for the South and should be give sharp drainage. A raised bed is perfect.  In the Arboretum, we have had good success with dry-loving plants by using sandy loam berms and a thin layer of crushed decomposed granite as a mulch.  The plant responds to fertilizer.  Some attention should be given the plants during the first two establishment years and we have not found the plant to be particularly rhizomatous, behaving instead like a green stiff mound throughout the year.  The plant survived the December 1989 dip to zero degrees and Tony Avent of Plant Delights in Raleigh, North Carolina, has kept the plant through many winters.  After a number of years, I discovered the clone had been given the name ‘Texas Rose,’ a name coined by Tim Kiphart, SFA Horticultura alum, who provided Tony with the plant. I’m confident that this is the same plant as the one in the Arboretum, the plant collected in October 1987.  As for the others that dot the trade, I’m not so sure where they came from.  There are darker flowered forms, perhaps derived from sports, or seed, or as a new collection.

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