What is Antirrhinum?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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Antirrhinum is a genus of flowering plant commonly known as the snapdragon. It is a popular garden plant, available in a variety of colors and sizes. Antirrhinum gets its common name from the shape of its flowers, which are thought to resemble the face of a dragon, with a mouth that opens and closes when the sides of the flower are squeezed.

The common snapdragon or garden snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus, is the most popular garden species. It is available in many different cultivars, including plants with white, yellow, orange, pink, and lavender flowers. There are also cultivars with peloric flowers, which are fully symmetrical, unlike the typical snapdragon shape. In the wild, A. majus features purple to pink flowers, often with a yellow lip.

Though a perennial plant, A. majus is often sold as an annual, especially in colder climates in which it is unlikely to survive the winter. The common snapdragon is native to the Mediterranean, but often escapes cultivation and is naturalized in many temperate climates. The plant is pollinated by bees, and it closes its flowers over the insects and deposits pollen on them.

Many species of Antirrhinum are native to the Americas, particularly to California and the surrounding areas. A. cyathiferum, also called dog's mouth or deep canyon snapdragon, is native to the deserts of California, Arizona, and northern Mexico. Its flowers are deep purple and white, sometimes with yellow in the throat.


Antirrhinum cornutum, or spurred snapdragon, is similar in appearance to A. cyathiferum, but features hairy flowers. It grows only in northern California. A. vexillo-calyculatum, also called wiry snapdragon or sailflower snapdragon, is mostly limited to northern California, but sometimes grows in Oregon as well. Its flowers are lavender, sometimes with darker purple streaks.

A. multiflorum, or the Sierra snapdragon, and A. virga, or the tall snapdragon, both grow only in California. The Sierra snapdragon features pink flowers. The tall snapdragon often grows in recently burned areas, and its flowers are pink to red.

A. coulterianum, or Coulter's snapdragon, and A. kelloggii, or Kellogg's snapdragon, are both native to southern California and Baja California in northern Mexico. Both species often grow in hills and mountains that have recently suffered from fire, and both are vine-like plants that use other plants in the area as support. Coulter's snapdragon features white flowers tinged with pink or purple, while the flowers of Kellogg's snapdragon are dark purple.

A. nuttallianum, also called Nuttall's snapdragon or violet snapdragon, also grows in southern California and Baja California. It features light purple flowers with white patches, and does not cling to other plants as much as other species. A. filipes, or the yellow twining snapdragon, is a yellow-flowered snapdragon growing throughout the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.


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