Pedicularis Sp. - Lousewort

Family: Orobanchaceae (Broom-rape family)

"Perennial herb, ± green. Stem: decumbent to erect, generally 1–several from generally short caudex. Leaf: alternate, generally ± basal, generally < inflorescence, toothed or generally > 7-lobed, generally reduced distally on stem; petiole generally < blade. Inflorescence: raceme, spike-like; bracts (at least proximal) generally ± like distal leaves; pedicels 1–6 mm. Flower: calyx lobes (2,4)5, distal-most generally shortest (all generally < tube), lateral fused in pairs; corolla white or yellow to red or purple, upper lip hood- or beak-like, curved or not, lower lip 3-lobed, narrow to fan-shaped, central lobe generally smallest; fertile stamens 4, generally glabrous, anthers generally included, sacs 2 per stamen, equal; stigma head-like, generally exserted. Fruit: generally ± ovate or lanceolate in outline, asymmetric, opening mostly on upper side. Seed: smooth or netted."
"± 500 species: cool wet northern temperate, circumboreal, South America. (Latin: lice, from belief that ingestion by stock promoted lice infestation) [Ree 2005 Int J Plant Sci 166:595–613] " [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Pedicularis bracteosa - bracted lousewort [E-flora]
  2. Pedicularis contorta - Curve-beaked Louswort [E-flora]
  3. Pedicularis ornithorhyncha - bird's-beak lousewort [E-flora]
  4. Pedicularis racemosa - sickletop lousewort [E-flora]


Limited Range Locals

  1. Pedicularis lanata - Woolly Lousewort (Haida Gwaii) [E-flora]
  2. Pedicularis oederi - Oeder's Losewort (Haida Gwaii) [E-flora]
  3. Pedicularis parviflora - Small-flowered lousewort (Haida Gwaii) [E-flora]
  4. Pedicularis verticillata - Whorled Lousewort (Haida Gwaii) [E-flora]


P. bracteosa; "Moist meadows, thickets and open forests in the montane to alpine zones; common throughout BC south of 56degreeN; var. bracteosa - E to AB and S to MT, ID and OR; var. latifolia - S to ID and WA." [IFBC-E-flora]

P. contorta; "Dry rocky slopes, meadows and open forests in the montane to alpine zones; infrequent in SE BC; E to SW AB and S to WY and CA. " [IFBC-E-flora-2]

P. ornithorhyncha; Mesic to moist meadows, heath, tundra, streambanks and open rocky slopes in the subalpine and alpine zones; frequent in and W of the Coast-Cascade Mountains, infrequent in C and rare in SC BC; N to S AK and S to W WA. [IFBC-E-flora-3]

P. racemosa, Moist to dry coniferous forests, open rocky slopes and meadows in the montane to subalpine zones; frequent in S BC, south of 53degreeN; S to CA. [IFBC-E-flora-4] "Grows in conifer forests, dry woods, slopes, at low to mid elevations. Native OLYM, MORA, NOCA" [Wild PNW]

Ecological Indicator Information


"The root and plant of some species are edible raw or cooked (Willard), but the plants are partly parasitic and may absorb toxins from nearby poisonous plants such as groundsels (Senecio spp.)." [Wildman]

Edible Uses

All species of pedicularis are reported edible, though some have roots too small to be of interest. [Schofield]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"It is interesting to note that the reason transplanting lousewort to rock gardens is difficult is because most Pedicularis species are at least partiaIly parasitic on roots of other plants; under cultivation, they may not find the proper hosts." [Schofield]
"Harvest Calendar [P.Kani/P.lanata] Late spring: shoots and leaves. Summer: flowers. Fall (or early spring): roots." [Schofield]

"Many, if not all, the louseworts are semiparasitic. partially deriving their nourishment from the roots of other plants. For this reason they are difficult to transplant or grow in gardens."[WGVC]

Related Non-local Sp.

Pedicularis attollens; "Found along streams and in wet meadows at high elevations, including Steens Mountain. Similar to P. groenlandica, which does not have dense hairs in the inflorescence. Native" [Wild PNW]

Pediclaris densiflora; "Grows in dense dry oak and pine forests at low to mid elevations. Widely distributed in California; northern limit of its range is southern Oregon. Native" [Wild PNW]

Pedlcularis groenlandica: "Grows in wet meadows. seeps. streambanks, at low to high elevations. Similar to P. attollens, which has dense hairs in the inflorescence and slightly smaller flowers with "trunk" pointing upward, not down and out. Native" [Wild PNW]

Pedicularis ornithorhyncha; "Grows in moist subalpine and alpine meadows. Native OLYM, MORA, NOCA" [Wild PNW]

Food Use of Related Species

Medicinal Used of Related Sp

Cultivation & Propagation

P.canadensis; "A semi-parasitic plant, growing on grass roots. Rather difficult to establish in cultivation, it is best grown in conditions that approximate to its native habitat[200]. It requires a moist peaty soil and the presence of host grasses[1]. The plant is said to parasitize at least 80 different species in 35 different genera[274]. Requires a partially shaded to sunny site in a well-drained gritty but moist soil[200]." [PFAF]

Blister Rust Host: "Service pathologists in Moscow, Idaho, discovered that two species of native forest herbs- a lousewort (Pedicularis) and a paintbrush (Castilleja)-can also serve as alternate hosts for blister rust. Since the 1960s, efforts have concen- trated on breeding the small percentage of white pines that exhibit natural resistance to blister rust." [NWtrees]

Pedicularis lanata - Woolly Lousewort


"Due to its sedative properties, lousewort should be used in moderation. Potency varies with species (and possibly soil conditions). An overdose of Pedicularis, says Moore, can cause ". . . a befuddled lethargy and some interference with motor control, particularly in the legs." He adds this is a "... short-term discomfort of minor consequence."" [Schofield]



Page last modified on Saturday, July 13, 2019 1:26 PM