Scorpion Tail and Seaside Heliotrope

Jill Staake


My post last week with tips for taking butterfly pictures included a picture of a Cassius Blue, and I had many questions about just what plant it was perched on. The plant in question is a native wildflower rather unfortunately known as Scorpion Tail (Heliotropium angiospermum), which is found mainly in Florida and south Texas. The tiny flowers bloom year-round and are popular with equally tiny butterflies as well as bees and other pollinators. It’s a somewhat sprawling and untidy shrub, so plant it in a wildlife or wildflower garden where the miniature flowers can be appreciated by pollinators and humans alike. It’s killed to the ground in a frost but will return quickly in Zones 8 – 11; it also reseeds prolifically, but the small seedlings are easy to uproot if they appear where you don’t want them.

For those who can’t grow Scorpion Tail, you can try another native member of this genus – Seaside Heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum), shown below. This wildflower is listed as growing across most of the country, where it blooms spring through fall. In addition to being important to our native bees, Seaside Heliotrope also grows fruit in the fall that’s relished by wild birds, giving rise to another common name – Quail Plant. In some areas, it’s also known as Monkey Tail due to the shape of the bloom cluster.

Both of these plants are part of the same genus as Common or Garden Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens), which is originally from Peru. The genus name, Heliotropium, comes from the Greek for “turns to the sun” – and that’s just what the blooms on these plants do throughout the day.

Do you grow or know of other native Helioptropium species here in the U.S.? Share with us in the comments below.

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