Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Scrophulariaceae, Figwort or Snapdragon Family

After recent phylogenetic studies the Scrophulariaceae is reduced to a medium sized family containing about 76 genera and approximately 1,575 species. Former members were moved to other families including Plantaginaceae and Orobanchaceae, while others were placed in new families.

The United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses the traditional classification and thus in North America there are approximately 95 genera and about 1,228 species. Some of the largest genera in North America are Penstemon (250 species), Mimulus (91 species), Castilleja (109 species) and Pedicularis (36 species) and Veronica (34 species). Of note is the type genus Scrophularia, which also grows in North America, has been removed from the new classification.

Species in the Scrophulariaceae, Figwort or Snapdragon family are usually annual and perennial herb/forbs, rarely small shrubs. They are distributed world-wide with greatest diversity in the temperate areas (Mediterranean) including tropical mountains.

Common characteristics include: Plants: Partial root parasites; a few wholly parasitic; Castilleja, Pedicularis, Cordylanthus; Leaves: opposite, alternate or rarely whorled, simple, entire, pinnately dissected; without stipules Inflorescence: raceme or cyme; Flowers: sepals 5 or 4 lobes united, petals 5 or 4 fused lobes (sympetalous), tube-like, some 2-lipped (bilabiate) bisexual, zygomorphic or rarely actinomorphic; Fruit: 2-chambered capsule or berry.

There are few species of economic importance other than Digitalis (Foxgloves) which contains digitalin which is used in the treatment of heart conditions. Some species are popular as garden ornamentals including Penstemon, Antirrhinum (Snapdragons) and a few others have economic value for their naturally beautiful flowers and vegetatively handsome plants.

Arizona is well represented with species of Castilleja, Mimulus, Penstemon and Veronica.

  • Castilleja exserta, Exserted Indian Paintbrush
  • Castilleja integra, Wholeleaf Indian Paintbrush
  • Keckiella antirrhinoides, Snapdragon Penstemon
  • Linaria vulgaris, Yellow Toadflax
  • Maurandella antirrhiniflora, Climbing Snapdragon
  • Mimetanthe pilosa, False Monkeyflower
  • Mimulus guttatus, Seep Monkeyflower
  • Mohavea breviflora, Golden Desert-snapdragon
  • Penstemon ambiguus, Gilia Beardtongue
  • Penstemon barbatus, Beardlip Penstemon
  • Penstemon clutei, Sunset Crater Penstemon
  • Penstemon dasyphyllus, Cochise Beardtongue
  • Penstemon eatonii, Firecracker Penstemon
  • Penstemon linarioides, Toadflax Penstemon
  • Penstemon palmeri, Palmer's Penstemon
  • Penstemon parryi, Parry's Beardtongue
  • Penstemon pseudospectabilis, Desert Penstemon
  • Penstemon subulatus, Hackberry Beardtongue
  • Penstemon superbus, Superb Beardtongue
  • Penstemon triflorus, Heller's Beardtongue
  • Penstemon virgatus, Upright Blue Beardtongue
  • Sairocarpus nuttallianus, Violet Snapdragon
  • Stemodia durantifolia, Whitewoolly Twintip
  • Verbascum thapsus, Common Mullein
  • Veronica anagallis-aquatica, Water Speedwell
  • Date Family Profile Completed: 08/10/2016
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database.[and all genera cited above - (accessed 08/10/2016).
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 08/10/2016).
    George F. Buddell II & John W. Thieret, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 3, 6. Saururaceae E. Meyer, Lizard's-tail Family
    Magnoliidae. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclop√¶dia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 10 Aug. 2016 Retrieved from
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Saururaceae', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 June 2016, 05:56 UTC, [accessed 10 August 2016]