(Alt: Scutellaria footeana )
Dwarf skullcap is an easily overlooked plant currently confirmed at only one location in the floristic area, that being the lower portion of Lydle Gulch on the south side of Lucky Peak Dam. Here it can sometimes be spotted on the open slopes of an unusual volcanic clay that provides a unique substrate for several other locally uncommon species. Regrettably (at least from a botanical point of view), the seemingly barren habitat was chosen as the site for a disk golf course, and it remains to be seen how long the dwarf skullcap and other unusual species can coexist with the regular foot traffic wandering at random.
The dwarf skullcap in Lydle Gulch is particularly special in that it might be the population for the only plant formally named after local writer Mary Hallock Foote, by visiting botanist Isabel Mulford (for whom Astragalus mulfordiae is named). When Mulford collected in Idaho in 1892, she may have actually been a guest of the Footes. When describing Scutellaria footeana in 1894, Mulford notes: “This was found at about 3,500 ft near Black Cañon, Boise River, June 18th. I have named the plant in honor of Mrs. Mary Hallock Foote, who planned, and accompanied me upon the pleasant expedition which led to its discovery.” Although Mulford’s “Black Cañon” is sometimes assumed to be the well-known Black Canyon on the Payette River, or even portions of Black’s Creek, the specific reference to the Boise River makes the basalt-rimmed stretch of the Boise River above Diversion Dam the more likely candidate, and it would have made perfect sense for Foote to take her house-guest botanizing in her beloved Lydle Gulch, where the family had lived for several years. Alas, Foote’s botanical claim to fame was short-lived, with Scutellaria footeana soon disappearing into the synonymy of the relatively widespread Scutellaria nana. We can still think of this particular population as Foote’s skullcap, however, in her memory.
Mulford, A. Isabel. 1894. Notes upon the northwestern and Rocky Mountain flora. Botanical Gazette 19: 117-120.