This quite rare perennial plant is parastitic on the roots of willow trees and sometimes on alder and poplar trees, too. The two-lipped flowers appear on very short leafless stems, and the plant favours shady damp places, often beside streams. You are most likely to find Purple Toothwort in the chalk-stream meadows of southern England, but this particular plant was photographed beside the River Ribble in Cumbria where it is much rarer.
The generic name Lathraea means hidden - a reference to the underground parasitic nature of this plant. Although generally considered to be a member of the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae) Purple Toothwort is sometimes grouped with the broomrape family (Orobanchaceae); broomrapes are also parasitic plants.