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Lousewort: the cause not the cure

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Lousewort: the cause not the cure

In areas of damp heath, often where there is grass rather than heather, you will often find lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica). It can also occur in quite wet areas of bog and myre. It is a low growing plant that spreads along the along the ground producing pink or purple flowers that have a top lip that is longer and overhangs three smaller ones along the bottom.

It flowers from May until July and the blooms look much like those of the deadnettle family (the labiates) but lousewort is more closely related to the broomrapes and as such is a parasitic plant. Unlike broomrapes which tend to have specific hosts lousewort is more generalist although it seems to have a preference for grasses. Lousewort is actually hemi-parasitic so partly fends for itself and that is why it has green chlorophyll which the true broomrapes lack.

Lousewort does not get its name as a an old cure for lice, quite the opposite. It was thought that it was actually the cause of lice infections in sheep if they ingested it rather than a cure.


 

 

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This nature note was written by ----> Peter Orchard
This nature nore was written ----> 2 years 2 weeks ago

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