Shoreline Plants  

Species: Gratiola neglecta Torr., American hedge-hyssop
Gratiola ebracteata Benth, bractless hedge-hyssop
Family: Scrophulariaceae

Hedge-hyssops are trailing to erect annual plants up to 30 cm tall. They are found along the shorelines of lakes, ponds, and rivers, but never grow in deep water. These plants have somewhat fleshy, often slightly-toothed opposite leaves, and frequently feel sticky. Both species have small white or yellowish tubular flowers which occur on short stalks attached to the leaf bases.

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Leaf: Oppositely-arranged, fleshy, narrow leaves have slightly-toothed margins, lack a defined leaf-stalk, and slightly clasp the stem at the leaf base. American hedge-hyssop: somewhat hairy leaf blades, 1-5 cm long and 2-15 mm wide, that are sharp-pointed at the tip and taper at the leaf base. The upper leaves have tiny bumps (glands). Bractless hedge-hyssop:leaf blades 5-25 mm long and 2-10 mm wide. The upper leaves are generally smooth and lack glands.

Stem: Hollow. American hedge-hyssop: stem often has many branches and is 5-30 cm tall. Bractless hedge-hyssop: simple or few-branched and 2-10 cm tall.

Flower: Tubular, irregular (uneven petal shape) flowers, with the 5 petals fused into a tubular base. The 5 sepals are usually not fused. American hedge-hyssop: white or yellowish flowers sometimes tinged with purple, petals 7-10 mm long. Two bracts occur at the flower base (appearing like 7 sepals). Flowers occur on slender stalks. Bractless hedge-hyssop: white or yellowish flowers with no purple coloring, petals 5-7 mm long, and no bracts.

Fruit: The rounded capsules are up to 4-5 mm long and contain many tiny seeds.

Root: Fibrous root system. All the roots are fine and about the same size.

Propagation: Seeds, root fragments.

Importance of plant: Hedge hyssops are attractive shoreline plants. Reputed medicinal qualities include treatment of dropsy, intermittent fever, worms and bruises.

Distribution: American hedge-hyssop: throughout most of the U.S. and Canada. Bractless hedge-hyssop: from southern British Columbia south to California and east to Montana.

Habitat: Grows along the shorelines of lakes, rivers, and ponds, in ditches, wet fields, wet woods, and marshes.

May be confused with: Other small shoreline plants with opposite leaves such as mudwort (Elatine sp.), water purslane (Ludwigia palustris), and American brooklime (Veronica americana). Leaf shape and attachment, the presence of sticky glands, and flower shape can all be used to distinguish these species from each other.

Photographs: Gratiola neglecta, Gratiola ebracteata

Line Drawings: None available

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