Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae)
Description: This plant is a summer annual about 4-8" tall that branches occasionally. The stems are light green to reddish green, 4-angled, and hairless. The opposite leaves are up to 1½" long and ¾" across; they are oval-ovate in shape, light green to reddish green, hairless, and smooth along the margins or bluntly dentate. The upper surface of each leaf has 3-5 pale veins, while the base of each leaf is sessile or has a short petiole.
Individual flowers are produced from the axils of the upper leaves (one flower per axil). Each flower is up to 1/3" (8 mm.) long, consisting of a tubular calyx with 5 linear teeth and a tubular corolla that curves slightly downward. The calyx is light green to reddish green and hairless. The corolla is white, pale violet, or a combination of these two colors. The upper lip of the corolla has 2 small lobes that function as a protective hood, while the lower lip of the corolla has 3 lobes that are rounded and spreading. Inside the corolla, there are 2 fertile stamens, 2 sterile stamens, and a single style. The slender pedicel of each flower is up to 1" long; it is usually shorter than the leaf underneath the flower. The blooming period occurs during the summer and early fall and can last 2-3 months for a colony of plants. There is no noticeable floral scent. Each flower is replaced by a narrowly ovoid or spindle-shaped seed capsule containing several small seeds. Mature seed capsules are about as long as the teeth of the calyx or slightly longer. The root system consists of a branching taproot. This plant reproduces by reseeding itself and occasionally forms colonies.
Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, wet to moist conditions, and soil that is muddy, sandy, or gravelly.
Range & Habitat: The native False Pimpernel is fairly common in most areas of Illinois, although it is easily overlooked (see Distribution Map). Habitats include muddy borders of ponds and streams, gravelly seeps, sandbars in rivers, moist open woodlands, and ditches. This small plant typically occurs in wet areas with low vegetation that are prone to flooding during the spring.
Faunal Associations: The flowers are visited by Halictid bees and other small bees for nectar and pollen. Small butterflies and skippers also visit the flowers for nectar. The low foliage of this plant along the margins of streams and ponds provides cover for frogs and turtles. This kind of vegetation enables such animals to blend into the background, while allowing them to see the approach of prey or predators.
Photographic Location: The photo of the plant colony was taken at the edge of a pond in Champaign, Illinois, while the photo of the flower close-up was taken on a sand bar along the Embarass River in Coles County, Illinois.
Comments: This wildflower is rather cute-looking when it is viewed up-close. It resembles several other members of the Figwort (or Snapdragon) family that are small-sized and prefer wetland habitats. Plants in this group have small tubular corollas and ovoid seed capsules; their corollas lack nectar spurs. It is difficult to distinguish False Pimpernel from Lindernia anagallidea (Slender False Pimpernel), except the latter has pedicels that are longer than the leaves. Some authorities consider the latter species to be a variety of False Pimpernel. False Pimpernel is also somewhat similar to Gratiola spp. (Hedge Hyssops) with white or pale violet corollas. However, there is a pair of slender bractlets underneath each flower of the Hedge Hyssops, while the flowers of Lindernia spp. (False Pimpernels) lack such bractlets.