Lousewort (genus Pedicularis)
Types of Flowers
Approximately one dozen native Pedicularis species (Lousewort) thrive in the Western United States.
Elephant's-head Lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica) is a showy flowering plant in the Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae).
It is fairly common in the mountain wetlands and stream sides of the Western United States.
The top picture shows a close-up view of one flower, enlarged by a factor of three. It resembles a pink elephant head.
The bottom picture shows two plants side by side. Clusters of flowers grow on the plant's stem.
Pedicularis attollens, Little Elephant's head or Little Elephantshead, is one of two Pedicularis species whose flowers slightly resemble an elephant.
It is a root-parasite that grows in high elevation wetland areas and meadows of the Western United States.
The plant can grow up to a foot in height and it is topped by a dense flower spike. The flowers are a colorful red and white, although it takes a bit more imagination to see the elephant in the flower as compared to the other species, Pedicularis groenlandica.
Like other lousewort, Bracted Lousewort (Pedicularis bracteosa) prefer mountain or subalpine habitat. Bracted Lousewort grows in dry meadow areas.
The flowers grow directly on the large, thin stem.
A book called Mountain Wild Flowers of Canada published in 1906 had this to say about the plant,
The Romans had a proverb, "Sell your coat arid buy Betony," and another old saying was, "May you have more virtues than Betony." Antoninus Musa, physician to the Emperor Augustus, wrote in high praise of its powers, stating that it would cure forty-seven of the ills to which human flesh is heir.
Franzins, in his History of Brutes, alludes to its healing virtues for animals. He says of the stag, "When he is wounded with a dart, the only cure he hath is to eate some of the herbe called Betony, which helpeth both to draw out the dart and to heale the wound."
The medicinal properties of Pedicularis species are still studied today.
© 2008-2011 Patricia A. Michaels.