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Alaska Wildflowers | Yellow

Yellow flowers of labrador lousewort taken in Nome Creek, Alaska.
Labrador lousewort blooming in the Nome Creek Valley in the White Mountain National Recreation Area.

Labrador Lousewort

Pedicularis labradorica Wirsing

Alt. Names: Labrador fernweed

Genus: Pedicularis
Family: Scrophulariaceae (Figwort)
Order: Lamiales

Duration: annual, biennial, or perennial
Uses: Roots and stems are edible. They can be used as a green dye.

Description and Identification

The Labrador Lousewort (Pedicularis labradorica) belongs to the genus Pedicularis which is a root parasitic plant, living (at least partially) off the nutrients of other living plants. The common name lousewort stems from the historically incorrect belief that these plants would make livestock susceptible to lice infestations after feeding on them. This plant is native to Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.

Labrador Lousewort grows in forests, tundra, or in bogs growing to be 12-38 cm tall (5-15 inches). It has long, narrow, pinnate leaves originating on the stem (cauline) that look somewhat fern-like. The largest and most dense leaves are basal. The leaves are green to brown. Flowers on the inflorescence are tubular and yellow, with possibly a red or brown tinge on the upper lip. They are about 2 cm in length (slightly under an inch). The upper lip of the corolla is beaked, acting as a hood covering the lower 3-lobed lip.

References

Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg 32
Pedicularis labradorica  Wirsing, ITIS Report
Pedicularis labradorica Wirsing var. labradorica, USDA database
Pedicularis labradorica : Labrador Lousewort, Central Yukon Species Inventory Project

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