wood betony

(Pedicularis canadensis ssp. canadensis)

Conservation Status
wood betony
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Wood betony is a 4 to 16 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on 1 or more stems from short rhizomes. It forms large clumps.

The stems are erect, hollow, unbranched, green or reddish brown, and hairy with long soft hairs. The leaves are mostly basal.

Basal leaves are crowded and form a rosette. They are on stalks that are often longer than the leaf blades. They are inversely lance-shaped with the attachment at the narrow end, up to 6 long and 1 wide. They are fern-like in appearance, cut with deep, rounded lobes cut more than half way to the midrib (pinnatifid). The upper surface is deep green, hairless except with appressed hairs along the sunken midrib, with indented (impressed) lateral veins. The lower surface is lighter green, hairless, with raised (prominent) lateral veins. The margins of the lobes have fine, rounded teeth.

Stem leaves are alternate and similar to the basal leaves but smaller and on shorter leaf stalks. They are 1 to 2 long, and to ¾ wide. Lower leaves are on long leaf stalks. Leaves become smaller and leaf stalks shorter as they ascend the stem. Upper leaves are stalkless.

The inflorescence is a 1 to 2 long, cone-shaped spike at the end of the stem and sometimes also from upper leaf axils. They have a conspicuous pinwheel arrangement, with the flowers sticking out at right angles to the central axis.

The individual flowers are stalkless and subtended by a single leaf-like bract. The calyx is to ½ long with 2 spreading, rounded lobes. There are 5 yellow petals forming a to 1 long, tubular, 2-lipped corolla. The upper 2 petals are fused into convex, one-lobed, hood-like lip (galea) from which the pistil protrudes. The hood is sometimes reddish or purplish tinged. There are 2 small teeth just below the tip of the galea. The lower 3 petals are fused into a banner that is shorter than the galea and has 3 lobes, the 2 lateral lobes rounded, spreading, and longer than the middle lobe. The 4 stamens are contained within the galea.

The fruit is a dry, egg-shaped capsule, 2 5 to 3 5 long, with uneven sides. It is twice the length of the calyx. When in fruit the spike elongates to up to 8.




4 to 16


Flower Color




Similar Species


Swamp betony (Pedicularis lanceolata) is a much taller plant, reaching 12 to 36 at maturity. It does not form clumps. Stem leaves are opposite, not alternate. The lower stem leaves are on short stalks no more than long. Leaves are more shallowly lobed, the lobes cut less than half way to the midrib. The inflorescence is up to 4 long. The flowers are white or yellowish. The galea is not toothed. The lower lip is about as long as the galea. It blooms much later, August to September. It is found in wet, not dry to moist, locations.


Dry to moderate moisture. Prairies, open, upland woods. Full sun.




April to June




Wood betony is a facultative parasite. It gets water and nutrients from the roots of grasses and possibly other plants, including at least 80 different species in 35 different genera. In the absence of suitable hosts it is capable of normal development. However, in the field it is rarely if ever found not parasitizing other plants.




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Lamiales (mints, plantains, olives, and allies)  


Orobanchaceae (broomrape)  
  Tribe Pedicularideae  
  Genus Pedicularis (louseworts)  
  Species Pedicularis canadensis (wood betony)  

The genus Pedicularis, formerly belonging the family Scrophulariaceae (figwort), has recently been transferred to the family Orobanchaceae (broomrape).




Pedicularis canadensis var. dobbsii

Pedicularis gladiata


Common Names



Canadian lousewort

common lousewort

early lousewort

forest lousewort


wood betony














The upper angle where the leaf stalk meets the stem.



Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



The group of outer floral leaves (sepals) below the petals, occasionally forming a tube.



A collective name for all of the petals of a flower.



An enlarged, vaulted, strongly concave or helmet-shaped upper lip of some two-lipped corollas, as in Indian paintbrush or monkshood.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



The small swelling of the stem from which one or more leaves, branches, or buds originate.



Deeply cut, more than half way to the midrib but not to the midrib, into lobes that are spaced out along the midrib; the lobes do not form separate leaflets.

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Greg Watson

    wood betony      



You might not recognize Wood Betony in early spring, reddish purple leaves.

    wood betony      
    wood betony   wood betony  
    wood betony   wood betony  
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos


    wood betony      


    wood betony   wood betony  


    wood betony   wood betony  


    wood betony      


    wood betony      


    wood betony      


    wood betony   wood betony  



Pedicularis canadensis WOOD BETONY
Frank Mayfield
  Pedicularis canadensis WOOD BETONY  



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  Greg Watson

Location: Eagles Bluff Park in La Crescent, MN

wood betony  

Location: Fairview Twp, Cass County

You might not recognize Wood Betony in early spring, reddish purple leaves.

wood betony  

Location: Cass County

wood betony  
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings




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