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Pedicularis sylvatica

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Bogs, heathland, moorland, wetland, woodland.

Pink, 2 petals
Flowers grow in short spikes of 3 to 10 flowers. The flowers are pinkish-purple. White flowers are rare. The hooded upper lip is 3-toothed and longer than that of the similar looking and later flowering Marsh Lousewort (Pedicularis palustris). Marsh Lousewort has a 5-toothed upper lip. The flowers appear in leafy spikes. Dark purple sepals.
The fruit is a capsule. The joined sepals inflate while Lousewort is in fruit.
The leaves are minute and green, tinged with purple in places. They are pinnately (irregularly) toothed. Leaflets are in opposite pairs. Marsh Lousewort is a similar species but is a taller and more erect plant. Lousewort is often seen growing with Tormentil (Potentilla erecta). Perennial.
Other Names:
Common Lousewort, Wood Lousewort.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Pedicularis sylvatica, also known as wood lousewort, is a herbaceous perennial plant that is native to wooded habitats such as coniferous and deciduous forests across the Northern Hemisphere. It is known for its distinctive, bilaterally symmetrical flowers that are typically pink, purple, or white in color. The leaves are also lanceolate and opposite. It typically grows to a height of 60 cm. like Pedicularis palustris, it's a hemi-parasite plant, meaning it depends on other plants to get some of its nutrients. It attaches itself to the roots of other plants, such as conifers and deciduous trees, and takes some of its nutrients from them. It's not considered an invasive plant and it's not poisonous.


Lousewort, scientifically known as Pedicularis sylvatica, is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the Orobanchaceae family. It is a unique plant species that grows in temperate regions around the world, including Europe, Asia, and North America. In this blog, we will discuss the interesting characteristics and uses of Lousewort.

Description of Lousewort

Lousewort is a perennial herb that grows up to a height of 30-60 cm. The plant has a thick, erect stem covered with small, scale-like leaves that are greenish-brown in color. The leaves are alternate and have a lobed shape. The flower of Lousewort is also unique and comes in a range of colors, including pink, purple, and yellow. The flowers are arranged in dense spikes at the end of the stem and bloom from June to September.

Characteristics of Lousewort

One of the most interesting features of Lousewort is its parasitic nature. The plant attaches itself to the roots of nearby trees and feeds on their nutrients. It is also known to form relationships with fungi, which help it absorb nutrients from the soil. Another unique characteristic of Lousewort is its use in traditional medicine. The plant contains several active compounds that are used to treat various ailments, including respiratory infections, fevers, and arthritis.

Uses of Lousewort

Lousewort has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb. It contains several active compounds, including flavonoids, alkaloids, and essential oils, that have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antispasmodic properties. These compounds make Lousewort a popular remedy for various ailments, including respiratory infections, fever, and arthritis. It is also used to treat nervous disorders, such as anxiety and insomnia.

Apart from its medicinal uses, Lousewort also has several ecological benefits. Its parasitic nature allows it to thrive in nutrient-poor soils and help improve soil quality. It is also an important food source for various pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, that help in the pollination of other plants.

Lousewort is a fascinating plant species that has several unique characteristics and uses. Its parasitic nature, medicinal properties, and ecological benefits make it an important plant in the natural ecosystem. As a natural remedy, Lousewort has been used for centuries and continues to be popular today for its various health benefits.

More Information

Lousewort is also commonly known as wood betony, and the name "lousewort" comes from its traditional use in treating lice infestations in livestock. The plant was believed to repel lice and other parasites, hence the name.

In addition to its traditional use in herbal medicine, Lousewort is also used in some cultures for its spiritual and mystical properties. In Native American cultures, it is believed to have the ability to purify and protect the soul, and is used in various ceremonies and rituals. In European folklore, Lousewort was believed to have magical properties and was used in love spells and other magical rituals.

One interesting aspect of Lousewort is that different species of the plant are adapted to different environments. For example, some species are adapted to growing in high altitude environments, while others grow in wetland areas. This adaptability has allowed the plant to thrive in a variety of environments around the world.

In terms of cultivation, Lousewort can be difficult to grow from seed and is often propagated by division. It prefers moist, well-drained soil and partial shade. It can be grown in gardens or in containers, but is not commonly cultivated commercially.

Lousewort is not only important for its medicinal and cultural uses but also for its role in the ecosystem. As a parasitic plant, it forms a symbiotic relationship with trees and fungi, which can have both positive and negative impacts. On the positive side, Lousewort can help improve the nutrient status of poor soils by tapping into the roots of nearby trees. It can also provide shelter and food for insects and other small animals, which can help maintain biodiversity in the ecosystem.

However, Lousewort can also have negative impacts on its hosts. In some cases, it can weaken the host plant and make it more susceptible to disease or insect infestations. This can have a ripple effect on the entire ecosystem, as the loss of a single tree or plant can impact the food and shelter available to other organisms in the area.

Despite these potential negative impacts, Lousewort is generally considered to be a beneficial plant. Its unique characteristics and adaptability make it an important part of many natural ecosystems, and its medicinal and cultural uses continue to be appreciated by people around the world. As with any plant, it is important to approach the use and cultivation of Lousewort with care and respect for its role in the ecosystem.

In addition to its traditional medicinal uses, Lousewort has been studied for its potential pharmacological properties. Researchers have identified several active compounds in the plant, including betonicine, pedicin, and betaine, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antioxidant properties. These properties make Lousewort a potential candidate for the development of new drugs for a range of conditions, including arthritis, inflammation, and cancer.

Studies have also found that Lousewort may have antibacterial and antifungal properties, which could make it useful in the treatment of infections caused by these organisms. Additionally, Lousewort has been found to have sedative effects and may be useful in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia.

While more research is needed to fully understand the potential therapeutic uses of Lousewort, its long history of traditional use and the promising results of early studies suggest that it may have significant benefits for human health.

In conclusion, Lousewort is a fascinating plant with a long history of traditional use in herbal medicine, as well as cultural and spiritual contexts. Its unique characteristics and adaptability make it an important part of the natural ecosystem, and its potential pharmacological properties make it a promising candidate for the development of new drugs. As with any plant, it is important to approach the use and cultivation of Lousewort with care and respect for its role in the ecosystem and for its potential therapeutic benefits.


Lousewort filmed at Kentmere in the Lake District on the 1st June 2023.


Music credits
The Coal Mine by Twin Musicom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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