common obedient plant

(Physostegia virginiana ssp. virginiana)

Conservation Status
common obedient plant
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACW - Facultative wetland


FACW - Facultative wetland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACW - Facultative wetland


Common obedient plant is a 2 to 5 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on multiple stems scattered along a long, horizontal rhizome.

The stems are erect, hairless, 4-angled, and hollow. They have 10 to 34 opposite pairs of leaves and are often branched near the top with several racemes.

The leaves are opposite, hairless, lance-shaped or inversely egg-shaped, up to 5 long and 1½ wide. The bottom 1 to 7 pairs may be stalked and soon fall off. The remaining leaves are stalkless. The margins are toothed usually with sharp teeth, sometimes with blunt teeth, or are rarely untoothed.

The inflorescence is a elongated, unbranched cluster (raceme) at the ends of the stems and branches. The racemes are 2 to 6 long when in flower and have 4 rows of densely packed flowers that mature from the bottom up. There are no empty floral bracts below the inflorescence. When moved left or right the individual flowers stay where they are moved, hence the name “obedient plant”.

The flowers are to 1 long. The 5 sepals are green, ¼ long, and are fused at the base into a tube with 5 sharply pointed lobes. The 5 petals are pink with purple spots on the inside. They are fused at the base into a tube with 2 lips. The upper lip is broad, hood-like, and overhanging. The lower lip is divided into a broad central lobe and 2 smaller lateral lobes. There are 4 stamens with purple anthers visible under the upper lip. There is no floral scent.

The fruit is a smooth nutlet with 1 seed.




2 to 5


Flower Color




Similar Species


Southern obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana ssp. praemorsa) stems are clustered on a short caudex. There are usually some empty floral bracts below the inflorescence. There are no records of it in Minnesota.


Dry to moderate moisture. Prairies, open woods. Full to partial sun.




August to October


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



3, 4, 7, 28, 29, 30.










  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Lamiales (mints, plantains, olives, and allies)  


Lamiaceae (mint)  
  Subfamily Lamioideae  
  Tribe Synandreae  
  Genus Physostegia (dragonheads and obedient plants)  
  Species Physostegia virginiana (obedient plant)  

Physostegia virginiana is a highly variable species. Many varieties and subspecies have been described. An analysis of several varieties and subspecies (Cantino, 1982) concluded that only two subspecies should be recognized, and they roughly equate to the northern and the southern groups. The northern subspecies P. v. ssp. virginiana is the only subspecies that occurs in Minnesota. USDA PLANTS shows the southern subspecies P. v. ssp. praemorsa also native to Minnesota, however no records of that subspecies in the state can be found.




Physostegia praemorsa

Physostegia serotina

Physostegia virginiana var. arenaria

Physostegia virginiana var. reducta


Common Names


common obedient plant

obedient plant












A short, thickened, woody, persistent enlargement of the stem, at or below ground level, used for water storage.



An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

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  Physostegia virginiana
Susanne Wiik
  Physostegia virginiana  

Virginialeddblomst Obedience




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