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Lindsay's Flora Blog - 7th May

Posted: Thursday 7th May 2020 by trustadmin

Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica

I decided to include this plant following a recent Facebook post (for which thank you!) which prompted me to go and look for it in the other site I was aware of – and I found much more than I had anticipated! Having now checked both sites It does seem to be a particularly good year for it.

A plant generally of damp heaths, moors and bogs, Lousewort is relatively uncommon on Alderney, limited to a few sites on the south coast near Telegraph tower and the Giffoine. It has pink-to purple open-mouthed flowers and the flower head is shaped like a hood, the upper lip longer and 3-toothed, and the Joined sepals inflate in fruit.

Lousewort is a “hemiparasite” – it has green leaves, unlike the true parasitic plants such as the Broomrapes which have no chlorophyll, but it does rely on the roots of host plants for water and nutrients which it extracts through tiny white suckers on its own roots. It doesn’t have a specific host plant, however, although these are most often grasses.

The Latin word 'pediculus' means 'louse' and the common name Lousewort was given to the plant originally as it was believed (apparently unproven) that it gave lice to livestock grazing on it!

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