heal-all (Prunella vulgaris)
common self heal
Prunella vulgaris var. atropurpurea Fern.
Prunella vulgaris var. calvescens Fern.
Prunella vulgaris var. hispida Benth.
Prunella vulgaris var. minor Sm.
Prunella vulgaris var. nana Clute
Prunella vulgaris var. parviflora (Poir.) DC.
Prunella vulgaris var. rouleauiana Victorin
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of heal-all is
Prunella vulgaris L. The 'crinkled' leaf surfaces, square stems, stolons,
stems that root at the nodes, and cluster of tube-shaped flowers are all
characteristics that help in the identification of healall. Healall is some-
times confused with henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) and purple deadnettle
(Lamium purpureum), however both of these weeds have leaves with
rounded teeth along the margins unlike those of healall. Florida betony
(Stachys floridana) also has a similar leaf shape and growth habit, how-
ever this weed has scalloped leaf margins and large, white underground
tubers unlike healall.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States; Native and introduced, Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This short perennial plant is about ½–2' tall and with considerable
branching from the base. It has an erect central stem that has white hairs
along its four angular ridges. It usually growing prostrate along the ground
and relatively tolerant of mowing, but can grow erect and reach as much
as 2 feet in height. Stems are distinctly square and hairy when young but
usually without hairs on older plants. Stems can root at the nodes.
Leaves: The opposite leaves are up to 2" long and ¾" across. They are
broadly lanceolate or ovate-shaped in outline, with short petioles, rounded
or pointed at the tip, rounded or tapering to the base, and have scattered
white hairs along the central vein on their undersides. Their margins may
be smooth, or have scattered blunt teeth. Leaves are approximately 3/4 to
3 1/2 inches in length and 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches wide. Lower leaves occur on petioles while upper leaves may not. Leaves are usually without hairs or
only slightly hairy. All leaves have 'crinkled' upper surfaces.
Flowers: The stem terminates in a short spike of flowers. Each tubular
flower is about ½" long and divided into 2 lips. The upper lip is light pur-
ple and functions as a hood, while the lower lip is white and fringed. The
lower lip also has two lateral lobes that are smaller and light purple. The
calyx is light green or reddish and quite hairy along the edges. There is no noticeable floral scent.
Fruit/Seeds: Each flower produces 4 tiny dark brown, ribbed, shiny, about
1/10 inch long nutlets, each containing an angular, finely ridged seed, which
are en- closed in the persistent calyx. Interestingly, the seeds may be distri-
buted by raindrop ballistics – when a raindrop strikes the ridged calyx tube,
this causes it to bend and rebound, flinging the seeds.
Roots: The root system consists of a short central taproot and stems that
root at the nodes.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Heal-all propogates itself by reseeding.
HABITAT TYPES: Habitats include moist to mesic black soil prairies,
moist meadows along rivers and lakes, thickets, openings in forests, wood-
land borders, pastures, and abandoned fields. Low woods, along streams,
around ponds and lakes, in roadside ditches, wet prairies, as well as in
drier habitats. Heal-all is primarily a weed of turfgrass and lawns, but is
also found along roadsides or occasionally in pastures and hay fields.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: The preference is full or partial sun, and
moist to mesic conditions. Some drought is tolerated, although the plant
will respond by dropping its lower leaves and turning greenish yellow.
Growth is best in rich loamy soil with high organic content, although other
kinds of soil are tolerated. This plant is easy to grow, and can become
rather weedy and aggressive. This little plant is frequently more attractive
in the wild than in developed areas, where it is frequently attacked by the
lawn mower, yard trimmer, herbicides, and other instruments of destruc-
tion. Another common name for this plant is 'all-heal.' Some botanists re-
fer to the native variety as Prunella vulgaris var. lanceolata.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period generally occurs
from mid- to late summer, but may start somewhat earlier in southern
regions (May-September) and lasts about a month.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Heal-all is found in all states in the United
States and all Canadian provinces with the exception of the far northern territories.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The flowers are visited by long-tongued
bees, short-tongued bees, small butterflies (primarily whites and sulfurs),
and skippers. Bee visitors include bumblebees, Anthophorine bees, little
carpenter bees, Eucerine miner bees, and green metallic bees. These
insects seek nectar, although the green metallic bees also collect pollen.
The caterpillars of the moth Agriopodes teratophora (gray marvel)
occasionally feed on the foliage. Heal-all has a bitter taste and is not favor-
ed by mammalian herbivores as a source of food. However, livestock
may eat this plant along with the grass.
Crooked Run Valley