One of the common, though less often noticed, wildflowers in Rocky Mountain National Park is called bunny-in-the-grass or Western Figwort (Scrophularia lanceolata). This subtle but charming wildflower is a member of the Scropulariaceae, the same plant family that contains garden snapdragons and some of the showiest wildflowers in the park - the penstemons and the Indian paintbrushes.
Bunny-in-the-grass probably gets its common name from the fact that its small copper and green flowers are not particularly showy, but are well camouflaged, just as are the baby rabbits after which they are named. Further if you look carefully at individual flowers, especially from the side and back, you can see a strong resemblance to a bunny's head, even down to seeing two tiny ears!
Another common name for this plant, Western Figwort, comes from the fact that one of its close relatives, the Eastern Figwort, was thought to have medicinal qualities. Fig is an old, no longer used term for hemorrhoids, and wort is the suffix used in plant names to indicate the plant was used as a herbal treatment for the affliction - thus figwort.
The bunny-in-the-grass plants have square stems, lance-head shaped toothed leaves, and can grow to about three feet tall in our area. They commonly occur in open montane meadows and beside roads. Their small flowers are pollinated by bees rather than the birds or butterflies that are attracted to showier flowers.
Whether you ponder their associations with medicinal qualities or wonder over their subtle camouflage, take time to search out and take a closer look at this charming, but often overlooked native wildflower.
Last updated: March 31, 2012