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Pedicularis sylvatica - Lousewort

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

Lousewort grows on damp acid soils

Above: Lousewort growing on a damp heath in West Wales

Marsh Lousewort was a member of the Figwort (Scrophulariaceae) family until recently, but it has now been moved into the Broomrape (Orobanchaceae) family.

Pedicularis sylvatica, North Wales

Description

Growing to a maximum height of around 15cm, Lousewort is a much shorter and more spreading plant than its relative Marsh Lousewort which can grow to around 60cm in height. The flowers are usually pink but, as seen in the picture below, white forms also occur and in some places they are quite common. The usually pinkish-purple flower, up to 25mm long, has white markings in its throat. Its five petals are fused into a tube, the upper lip being curved in the form of a hood, with two teeth at the tip. (The flower of Marsh Lousewort differs in having not two but four teeth at the tip of its upper lip.) The lower lip of the flower is deeply divided into three rounded lobes.

The white form of Lousewort

Distribution

Common and widespread across most of Britain and Ireland except for some arid regions in eastern England, Lousewort is native to central and western Europe.

Lousewort, Pedicularis sylvatica - West Wales

Habitat

Often occurring with Tormentil Potentilla erecta and various kinds of heather and other acid-loving plants, Lousewort grows most abundantly in the damp soils of heaths, bogs and moors. It is hemi-parasitic on the roots of other plants, particularly grasses, that grow in close proximity to it.

Lousewort with Tormentil

Flowering times

Pedicularis sylvatica can usually be seen in flower from April until the end of July. The specimens illustrated on this page were photographed in West Wales during June and July.


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