BACKGROUND: This study was conducted to evaluate the occurrence and fate of fetal lumbar rib induced by Scutellariae radix (SR) in rats. METHODS: Water extracts of SR were orally administered to pregnant rats from day 7 to day 17 of gestation at a dose of 186 mg/kg/day, equivalent to 25 g/kg of starting material, representing a 100-fold increase over typical human intake level. RESULTS: The incidence of fetal lumbar rib in the SR-treated group was increased on gestational day 20 and then decreased on postnatal day 50. The weight of fetuses in the SR-treated group tended to be less than that in the control group. Alkaline phosphatase in SR-treated dams was increased on gestational day 20, but was decreased on postnatal day 50. There were no significant differences between the vehicle control and SR-treated groups in maternal body weight, embryological, histopathological, hematological, and serum biochemical changes. CONCLUSIONS: The present data suggest that the appearance of lumbar rib induced by SR is a transient fetal variation rather than teratogenicity or maternal toxicity. Birth Defects Res (Part B) 89:201–206, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.