Plant of the Week

Mimbres figwort (Scrophularia macrantha)

By Charlie McDonald

Map of the United States showing states. States are colored green where the Mimbres figwort may be found.
Range map of the Mimbres Figwort. States are colored green where the Mimbres figwort may be found.

Mimbres figwort is a rare plant that grows in southwestern New Mexico in only three places, Neeling Nun Mountain, Cook’s Peak, and the Mimbres Mountains. It grows on steep, rocky, usually north-facing igneous cliffs and talus slopes, and occasionally in canyon bottoms at 6,500-8,200 feet in elevation.

Mimbres figwort is an herbaceous perennial with one to several stems and terminal clusters of bright red flowers. Each flower is 0.5-1.0 inch long and pollinated by hummingbirds. It blooms from July through October. It is by far the showiest of the figworts, which includes all the plants in the genus Scrophularia. There are 17 figwort species in the United States and several of them are quite common.

close-up view of Mimbres figwort flowers. Mimbres figwort flower.

Mimbres figwort flowers. Left photo © D. and M. Zimmerman; from http://nmrareplants.unm.edu, used with permission. Right photo © W.L. Wagner; from USDA NRCS PLANTS Database.

The nursery trade has taken some interest in cultivating Mimbres figwort because it is perennial, drought tolerant, has showy bright red flowers, a fairly long blooming period, and attracts hummingbirds. But, figwort is a poor name for an attractive garden plant so nursery growers have given it the new moniker of redbirds-in-a-tree. A look at the flower cluster and you can see why the name fits. Its availability is limited, but an internet search using the name redbirds-in-a-tree or the scientific name Scrophularia macrantha will lead you to several plant sources.

For More Information: PLANTS Profile - Scrophularia macrantha, New Mexico figwort

Plant of the Week

Wheel milkweed, Asclepias uncialis.
Wheel Milkweed (Asclepias uncialis)