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Field Cow-wheat

Melampyrum arvense

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
35 centimetres tall
Cliffs, fields, grassland, hedgerows.

Pink, 1 petal
The flowers appear in a short spike and are 2-lipped, between 2 and 2.5cm long. Flowers are pinkish-purple with a yellow lower lip. The flowers are visually camouflaged inside the abundant brightly coloured leafy bracts. The bracts are pinkish-purple and toothed near their bases. The bracts turn green, narrow and drooping near their ends.
The fruit is a flat, elliptical capsule.
A semi-parasitic plant mainly on grass roots. Field Cow-wheat has linear, lance-shaped leaves, in opposite pairs along the stems.
Other Names:
Small Cow-wheat.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Melampyrum arvense, also known as field cowwheat or small cowwheat, is a species of flowering plant in the broomrape family (Orobanchaceae). It is native to Europe, where it grows in a variety of habitats, including meadows, grasslands, and wooded areas. The plant is a herbaceous perennial with green, lance-shaped leaves and small, pink or purple flowers that bloom in the summer. Melampyrum arvense is an important food source for many species of wildlife, and it is also used medicinally and as a natural dye. It is closely related to other species of Melampyrum, such as M. cristatum (crested cowwheat) and M. pratense (common cowwheat).


Field Cow-wheat, scientifically known as Melampyrum arvense, is a small annual or biennial plant belonging to the family Orobanchaceae. It is also known by its common names such as corn cow-wheat, field cow-wheat, and purple cow-wheat. This plant is native to Europe and Asia, but it has been widely introduced in other regions of the world as a weed.

The plant has a short stem with small leaves and spikes of purple or pinkish flowers. The flowers are shaped like a funnel and are grouped in spikes that grow on the stem. The flowers bloom from June to September and are attractive to insects, especially bees.

Field Cow-wheat is often considered as a weed due to its ability to grow in disturbed areas and in close proximity to crops. It is commonly found in arable land, meadows, pastures, and roadsides. The plant grows well in nutrient-rich soil and is able to tolerate low light levels.

Despite its reputation as a weed, Field Cow-wheat has some medicinal properties. The plant is known to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, and it has been used in traditional medicine for treating wounds, cuts, and burns. The plant is also believed to have a mild sedative effect and can be used to treat anxiety and stress.

In some regions, Field Cow-wheat is used as a food source for livestock. The plant is rich in vitamins and minerals, and it is a good source of protein and fiber. The leaves and stems of the plant can be consumed fresh or dried, and they can be used to make hay or silage.

Field Cow-wheat is a plant that is often considered as a weed but has some useful properties. Its ability to grow in disturbed areas and its attractive flowers make it a valuable plant for supporting wildlife and improving soil health. Its medicinal properties and use as a food source for livestock demonstrate the potential of this plant to contribute to sustainable agriculture.

Field Cow-wheat is an interesting plant species with a variety of uses. Its purple or pinkish flowers not only provide an attractive addition to the landscape, but they also serve as a source of nectar for pollinators. This plant is an important food source for many species of insects, especially bees, which play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems.

In addition to its importance as a food source for insects, Field Cow-wheat is also beneficial to the soil. The plant has a deep root system that helps to improve soil structure, reduce erosion, and increase the soil's water-holding capacity. This makes it an ideal plant for improving soil health and increasing the fertility of arable land.

Another interesting aspect of Field Cow-wheat is its use in traditional medicine. The plant is believed to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, and it has been used for centuries to treat wounds, cuts, and burns. Additionally, the plant is believed to have a mild sedative effect and can be used to treat anxiety and stress.

Despite its many benefits, Field Cow-wheat is often seen as a weed due to its ability to grow in close proximity to crops. It is important to remember, however, that weeds are often beneficial plants that are simply growing in the wrong place. In many cases, they can be managed through integrated weed management practices that balance the need to control weeds with the need to support beneficial species.

In conclusion, Field Cow-wheat is a valuable plant species that provides a range of benefits to the environment and human health. From its role as a food source for pollinators, to its use in traditional medicine, this plant species is a testament to the many benefits that weeds can provide. By embracing a more holistic approach to weed management, we can ensure that the many valuable species like Field Cow-wheat are protected and valued for the benefits they provide.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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