Butter and eggs – Linaria vulgaris

Alaska Wildflowers | Yellow

The snapdragon like flowers of butter and eggs, Linaria vulgaris

Butter and eggs

Linaria vulgaris

Common Names

butter and eggs
greater butter-and-eggs
yellow toadflax
Jacob’s ladder
wild snapdragon


Linaria linaria



Genus: Linaria
Family: Plantaginaceae
Order: Lamiales
full classification

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

Identification and Information

Linaria vulgaris, butter and eggs, toadflax, or wild snapdragon, is an invasive perennial herb (in Alaska) that reproduces by forming adventitious buds from the roots (long spreading root system) as well as by seed. It forms fertile and sterile stems; the fertile stems stand somewhat taller at 35-90 cm than the sterile ones that grow up to 18 cm tall. The blue-green leaves are linear to linear-lanceolate, attaching directly to the stem, and are 2.5-5 cm long.

The terminal racemes are densely spaced with 11-31 flowers. The flowers are attached to the stem via 3-7mm long pedicel and have linear to lanceolate bracts. The flowers resemble the familiar snapdragon and are 27-33 mm long, with a long, slightly curved spur. The flower is bilaterally symmetric and has five fused tepals (petals and sepals) that are white and pale to bright yellow (especially in the center) with orange throats. The calyx lobes are lanceolate to ovate while the corolla (petals) forming the tube. The spur is 11-15 mm long, only slightly shorter or the same size as the rest of the corolla. When in seed it forms 5-10mm long, ovoid or disk-like capsules. The seeds are small, flat, and blackish.


For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

No uses were found for food. Some traditional “medicinal” uses led me to believe the plant is at least somewhat toxic. The plant does contain glycosides which are mildly toxic to people and animals. Some of the uses from the Iroquois and Ojibwa include:

“Compound infusion of smashed plants taken to vomit as an anti-love medicine.”
“Compound infusion of plants and flowers given to babies that cry too much.”
“Compound infusion of smashed plants taken to vomit and remove bewitching.”

I have seen a few second-hand sources that say tea from the leaves is a strong laxative.

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Distribution and Habitat

Linaria vulgaris is widely distributed across the northern hemisphere, including almost all of the US and Canada, Europe, and northern Asia. It is also found in a few locations in the southern hemisphere, most notably New Zealand. In many locations, it was introduced as an ornamental or medicinal plant. It is not a native plant to Alaska. It is native to areas in Europe and Asia.

It typically lives in well-drained soils and is often found along roadsides and railroad tracks. It can also be found on rocky hillsides or slopes, fields, pastures, and disturbed open sites.


RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
   SubkingdomViridiplantae (green plants)
      InfrakingdomStreptophyta (land plants)
            DivisionTracheophyta (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
               SubdivisionSpermatophytina (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
                           FamilyPlantaginaceae (plantains)
                              GenusLinaria Mill. (toadflax)
                                 SpeciesLinaria vulgaris Mill. (butter and eggs)

References and Further Reading


Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg. 30

Classification and Taxonomy

L. vulgaris Mill. Taxonomic Serial No.: 33216, ITIS Database

L. vulgaris Mill, USDA Database


L. vulgaris P. Mill., Native American Ethnobotany Database

Butter-and-Eggs Linaria vulgaris, Medicinal Plants of the Northeast

Map and Distribution

L. vulgaris Butter-and-eggs, Nature Serve Explorer

L. vulgaris Mill. Published in: Gard. Dict. ed. 8: n.º 1 (1768), GBIF Database

Description and Information

7. L. vulgaris Miller, Gard. Dict., ed. 8. no. 1. 1768., Flora of North America (eFloras.org)

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