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Lathrea clandestina - Purple Toothwort

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Lamiales - Family: Orobanchaceae

flowers of Purple Toothwort

Although formerly considered to be a member of the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, Purple Toothwort is now generally placed within the broomrape family Orobanchaceae; broomrapes are also parasitic plants.

Identification

This quite rare but very distinctive perennial plant is parastitic on the roots of willow trees and sometimes on alder and poplar trees, too. It has no leaves, and the two-lipped flowers appear on very short leafless stems.

Habitat

This plant favours shady damp places, often beside tree-lined streams.

Lathraea clandestina, Purple Toothwort

Distribution

In Britain 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.

Lathraea clandestina, Purple Toothwort, beneath a willow tree

Etymology

The generic name Lathraea comes from the Greek word lathraios and means hidden - a reference to the underground parasitic nature of this plant.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Martin James.


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