Pedicularis canadensis, commonly called Canadian lousewort or wood betony, is a flowering plant in the broomrape family (Orobanchaceae). It is native to North America, where it is found in southeastern Canada, the eastern United States, and eastern Mexico. It has a wide-ranging natural habitat, being found in mesic to dry, forests, woodlands, and prairies.
Pedicularis canadensis is a perennial, clonal, herbaceous plant, growing to 30 cm (12 in) tall. It has long, soft, hairy leaves (many are basal, growing tufted from roots), some 12 to 36 cm (4.7 to 14.2 in) long, deeply incised and toothed, often reddish-purple under sunlight. It blooms in the spring to summer, between April and June. It produces a broad whorl of tubular, hooded flowers on top of a segmented stalk. The flowers range in color from a greenish-yellow to purplish-red, clustered on short, dense spikes. They are pollinated by bumblebees. The fruit is a long brown seed capsule, which disperses through explosive dehiscence.
The genus name Pedicularis is from Latin meaning "of or relating to lice", from the belief that cows caught lice when grazing in pastures with the European Pedicularis palustris. The specific epithet canadensis refers to Canada. It was formerly included in the family Scrophulariaceae but is now considered to be in Orobanchaceae.
- Pedicularis canadensis subsp. canadensis — broadly distributed
- Pedicularis canadensis subsp. fluviatilis (A.Heller) W.A.Weber — restricted to northern New Mexico and Colorado
Distribution and habitat
Wood betony is broadly distributed across eastern North America, from Quebec east to Manitoba, south to Mexico, and east to Florida. It occurs in a variety of habitats, including mesic to dry prairies, savannas, barrens, and woodlands. In the Chicago area it is considered a conservative species, with a coefficient of conservatism of 9.
Pedicularis canadensis is a hemiparasite, attaching to the roots of diverse species, but also producing chlorophyll on its own. Its roots also have a symbiotic relationship with a fungus that helps it gather nutrients. It has been used in prairie restoration projects to reduce the dominance of aggressive tallgrasses.
A leaf beetle, Capraita circumdata has been collected from inside of the flowers. Several ants have been recorded visiting the flowers, including: Crematogaster cerasi, Formica incerta, Formica subsericea, and Lasius alienus. Bees documented visiting the flowers of wood betony include Augochlorella aurata, Bombus auricomus, Bombus bimaculatus, Bombus fervidus, Bombus griseocollis, Bombus impatiens, Bombus vagans, Halictus confusus, and Lasioglossum anomalum.
The Menomini called the root "enticer root" and carried it as a charm when determined on seducing the opposite sex. The root was also used to heal broken marriages by placing it in food the couple would both eat, hoping its magic would rekindle romance.
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