Melampyrum pratense - Common Cow-wheat

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Lamiales - Family: OrobanchaceaeCommon Cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense

Common Cow-wheat has yellow flowers in pairs, both facing the same way, making this plant unmistakable when in bloom.


Found throughout Britain and Ireland, this is a common wildflower of northern and central Europe, notably Slovenia where many other cow-wheat species including the beautiful Melampyrum nemorosum can also be seen.

Habitat and Blooming Times

Common Cow-wheat, Melampyrum pratense, is much less glamorousin appearance than its close relative Field Cow-wheat (Melampyrum arvense), a beautiful wildflower that is now very rare in the UK; nevertheless, Common Cow-wheat brightens up the edges of acid woodland with its deep golden flowers during the summer; it can also be found on heaths. This wildflower is much less common in alkaline areas, but it can tolerate lime and so is sometimes found on chalk downland and in soil overlaying limestone. Melampyrum pratense blooms in Britain from May until September.

Melampyrum pratense, closeup of flowers


Melampyrum, the genus name, comes from the Greek words melas- meaning black, and -pyros meaning wheat. It is a reference to the fact that if seeds of a Melampyrum species are included with wheat or other grain and ground up into bread-making flour then the resulting bread becomes discoloured (blackened). The specific epithet pratense means 'of meadows' - a reference to the fact that Common Cow-wheat is often found aroung the wooded headlands (margins) of permanent pastures..

The flowers shown on this page were photographed in North Wales in June.

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