Lathraea squamaria

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Lathraea squamaria
Lathraea squamaria LC0126.jpg
Scientific classification
L. squamaria
Binomial name
Lathraea squamaria

Lathraea squamaria, the common toothwort, is a species of toothwort.

Common Toothwort. Illustration from Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, 1885

It is parasitic on the roots of hazel and alder, occasionally on beech, in shady places such as hedge sides. It consists of a branched whitish underground stem closely covered with thick, fleshy, colourless leaves, which are bent over so as to hide under the surface; irregular cavities communicating with the exterior are formed in the thickness of the leaf.

The only portions that appear above ground in April to May are the short flower-bearing shoots, which bear a spike of two-lipped dull purple flowers. The scales which represent the leaves also secrete water, which escapes and softens the ground around the plant. Externally they immediately reveal their heterotrophic character by their lack of chlorophyll and the reduction of their leaf area.