Pedicularis canadensis (Wood Betony)

Plant Info
Also known as: Canadian Lousewort, Common Lousewort
Family:Orobanchaceae (Broomrape)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; average to dry prairies, open woods
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:4 to 16 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Flowers are in a thick spike up to 3½ inches long at the top of the stem. Individual flowers are yellow, rarely reddish brown, ½ to 1 inch long, tubular with the upper lip longest and curving over the lower lip like a hood. The lower lip may be white.

 [view of flowers from the top] The leafy bracts are lobed and toothed, with long hairs around the edges. The bracts are twisted so that the flowers are turned sideways. From the top of the plant the arrangement resembles a pinwheel.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are mostly basal, up to 6 inches long and 2 inches wide, with many deeply cut, toothed, rounded, often wavy lobes around the edges and a long stalk sparsely covered in long white hairs. A few leaves much smaller than the basal leaves are also alternately attached on the stem. The main stem is densely hairy. Leaves and stem may be green or tinged red.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is an angular capsule about ½ inch long, containing many small seeds.


Wood Betony tends to grow in clumps and is partially parasitic; common host plants are asters and native grasses. The leaves and flowers are similar to related species Swamp Lousewort (P. lanceolata) but that is a larger plant, has opposite leaves with shallower lobes, and doesn't bloom until August. All of the Pedicularis species were formerly in family Scrophulariaceae (Figwort) but have been reassigned to Orobanchaceae (Broomrape) along with other parasitic plants.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, Rice County, and Rice Creek Trail Corridor, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at a postage stamp native remnant in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Linda - Oakdale
on: 2011-07-07 17:03:31

You know, this plant wasn't identifiable via any of my field guides to Minnesota plants. A friend and I found it growing all over the place in woods along railroad tracks in Oakdale, MN (border of Ramsey & Washington counties) several years ago and just about drove ourselves nuts trying to identify it, as neither of us had seen it before. You have a great site here, and I'm sure I'll be using it often - thanks for all your hard work here!

Posted by: Kathleen - Glenwood
on: 2012-06-01 13:14:23

These plants were blooming last month on a NW facing slope before the (common?) sumac leafed out. Great photos nailed the ID.

Posted by: Teresa - West St. Paul, Dakota County
on: 2014-05-21 12:41:55

Spotted three blooming and the rosette of several others on Dodge's Lilly Prairie on May 21st. This is the first time I have seen this on this prairie; an exciting find!

Posted by: Brett - Mound Prairie SNA
on: 2014-05-25 22:33:36

Saw a lot of these on the open slopes and also just into the edges of the woods. First time seeing these and thought I missed the prime of its bloom but I don't think I did. They are just kind of ugly IMO.

Posted by: Vickie - Minneola State park
on: 2015-05-18 13:56:24

Saw these on a guided wildflower walk May 16. Naturalist guide identified them. Had never heard of them nor have been able to find them in the 5 wildflower books I searched this weekend. thanks for your excellent source !!

Posted by: luciearl - Lake Shore, MN
on: 2016-05-30 16:12:10

I just found this yesterday walking on a nearby trail. I have never seen it before, but the forest is getting more light after the "blow down" last year.

Posted by: Iris H - Interstate State Park
on: 2017-05-16 10:37:26

This was in bloom along the Sandstone Bluffs Trail last Saturday, May 13.

Posted by: Kurt - West of Whitewater State Park
on: 2017-05-18 21:35:36

Growing on rocky narrow ridge. Native White pine canopy.

Posted by: Gary W - St. Louis County
on: 2017-06-02 21:58:04

I saw this species in the vicinity of Giant's Ridge in 1993 and 1994.

Posted by: Lonna - Bill Barnacle State Woodlands (Olmstead Co)
on: 2018-05-23 07:17:27

Not 100% sure on the id but it sure looked a lot like this. It may be a little different looking in that it's just starting to bloom (late May). There was just a small group of them on a wooded hillside. I can't recall ever seeing this plant before and it didn't make the cut in my MN wildflower book.

Posted by: Lorelei L - Crystal
on: 2018-06-06 11:47:28

I found about 4 of them growing in the back of a planting area and the biggest was at least 3 feet tall already, but had not flowered yet. They were dug up and the root system resembles a carrot.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-06-06 12:10:01

Lorelei, if what you found was 3 feet tall then it would not be wood betony. It's a shorter plant, often under 1 foot, and should have been in bloom a month ago.

Posted by: Candace Marx - Mazeppa
on: 2020-05-19 08:52:41

I found many plants along the edge of a wooded area in a field yesterday.

Posted by: Heidi Hughes - 8 miles east of Warren, MN
on: 2020-06-01 16:42:54

I found them in the fall last year (very distinctive seed stalks) and wondered what they were. I went out today and found many clumps in bloom on the west facing sandy ridge of Glacial Lake Agassiz, 0.25 miles from the NW Minnesota Pollinator Garden - a native plant restoration project.

Posted by: Karen Davis - White Bear Lake
on: 2021-05-03 13:18:18

I saw these growing on the trail at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park in April. We thought they were some kind of red fern. It's good to find out what they really are. I don't understand the parasitic relationship with other plants.

Posted by: Jillian Fejszes - Pennington County
on: 2021-10-01 13:30:32

Found on prvivate land in Sanders Township.

Posted by: Kate Gipp - William O'Brien State Park
on: 2023-05-25 20:32:31

There were many colonies of Wood Betony blooming in the prairie at William O'Brien State Park. I spotted many large bumblebees on the flowers.

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