Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
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Featured Plant: Pedicularis canadensis L. subsp. canadensis

Canadian lousewort, forest lousewort, wood-betony

Family: Scrophulariaceae or Snapdragon

Pedicularis: from the Latin pediculus = "lousy". It was thought that sheep and cows grazing in a pasture with this plant would become infested with lice.

Canadensis: from Canada

Usually grows in clumps on upland prairies or open woodlands preferring acidic soils. Flowers late April through early June.

The downy silvery-green alternate leaves are long and narrow up to 5 inches and deeply cut resembling a fern leaf. The early basal leaves are tinged with a rusty-red that, at times, creeps into the stems. The yellow or reddish  flowers appear to spiral around the conical shaped head which grows at the end of a usually un-branched stem elongating into a spike as it ages. After flowering the 6 to 10 inch stem grows to about 18 inches tall. The fruiting spike turns a dark brown and holds several seeds in small hooded capsules.

Ethnobotany: The plant root was used by Indians as a stimulant and tonic and steeped to rub on sores. The whole plant was boiled into a tea to reduce swellings. A root poultice was used for snakebites and as a magic charm. In some tribes it was used as a love potion. The Cherokee used the plant for bloody bowel discharge and as an ingredient in cough medicine. For stomach ache, they would make a hot root decoction or drink an infusion for flux. Contrary to the name, they also used it in dog beds to de-louse pups and to rid sheep of lice.

Other facts: The plant is thought to be partially parasitic on the roots of other plants, in particular grasses. Large areas of otherwise dense prairie can be covered by stands of this plant.

Propagation: This is a good plant to use in prairie restorations as it grows well from seed collected in mid to late summer. Scattered the seeds in late fall to early winter in dry, sandy areas.

Blooming Buddies include: yellow - prairie buttercup (Ranunculus rhomboideus), white - field pussy-toes (Antennaria neglecta), several violets (Viola spp.), white/pink- shooting-star (Dodecatheon meadia subsp. meadia), white- lyrate rock-cress (Arabis lyrata) and red - prairie-smoke (Geum triflorum var. triflorum).

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Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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