Valerianaceae – Valerian Family
The Valerianaceae, was up until somewhat recently its own family of flowering herbaceous plants, but is now classified as part of the Caprifoliaceae, or Honeysuckle family.[i] These plants are found in most regions of the world except for Australia. In our area, members of the Valerian family are perennial herbs with a distinctly unpleasant odor due to the presence of Isovaleric acid.[ii] In fact, the family name originates from the Latin “valere,” meaning “strong” in reference to their somewhat robust scent.[iii] Valerianaceae have many tiny bisexual and unisexual flowers found in small clusters as corymbs or panicles. Smooth obovate or lanceolate leaves can be simple or pinnately compound. Basal leaves are arranged in a whorl and cauline leaves are opposite.[iv] Within the genus Plectritis stems are angled similar to the members of the Mint family.[v] Funnelform flower corollas are five lobed and bilabiate (two lipped), which also give this group a similar appearance to members of Mint family.
Valerian root is used as a sedative that acts on the central nervous system. However, about one in five people will have a reverse reaction to the plant, where it acts as a stimulant rather than a tranquilizer.[vi]
Plectritis congesta – Rosy Plectritis
Species Code: PLCO
Growth Habit: Annual herb from a taproot
Leaves: Basal leaves soon deciduous; stem leaves opposite, lowermost leaves spoon-shaped or egg-shaped with short stalks, others more oblong or elliptic and stalkless, smooth, 1-6 cm long, 3-22 mm wide.
Flowers: Inflorescence of terminal, more or less head like clusters; corollas white to pale or dark pink 1.5-9.5 mm long, 2-lobed, with a slender spur, the tip usually enlarged; calyces lacking.
Fruits: Achenes, dry, 2-4 mm long, convex side of body usually keeled, not grooved lengthwise, winged or not, the wing margins not thickened, hairy near the tips or along the margins. concave brown fruits sitting in the “cups” formed by the dried vegetative parts. Ripens asynchronously, so there will sometimes be flowers on the same plant as mature seed. Doesn’t hold seed long, especially in rainy weather.
Ecology: Facultative Upland Species (FACU), occurs and survives in dry uplands, but in the Willamette Valley found in wetland prairies.[vii]
[i] Simpson, M. Plant Systematics 2nd ed. Academic Press, Burlington, MA. 2010.
[ii] Elpel, T. J., Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification. HOPS Press, 2004. 142
[iii] Hitchcock, et al. 455
[iv] Gilkey, H. Handbook of Northwestern Plants, Revised Edition. Oregon State University Press; Corvallis, OR. 2001. 390
[v] Gilkey, H. Handbook of Northwestern Plants, Revised Edition. Oregon State University Press; Corvallis, OR. 2001. 391
[vi] Elpel, T. J., Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification. HOPS Press, 2004. 142
[vii] USDA Plants Database: <https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=LONU>