Pedicularis lanata : Woolly Lousewort


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Dicoteldonae (two seed-leaves)

Family: Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)

Genera: Pedicularis (Lousewort, Fernweed) (Lat. pediculus = a louse; animals who ate these plants were said to be protected from lice.)

Species: lanata (Lat. for woolly; referring to the dense woolly hairs on this species)

Synonym(s): P. kanei

English Name(s):

Woolly Lousewort, Woolly Fernweed

First Nation Names:



  • Plants herbaceous (not woody).
  • From a bright lemon-yellow taproot.
  • Stems simple (unbranched), 5-25cm high, densely white-woolly.


  • Basal and cauline (onstem).
  • Lower leaves long petiolate (stalked).
  • Bladed narrow, deeply pinnately lobed to pinnately compound.
  • Lobes toothed to pinnately lobed.

Reproductive Parts:

  • Inflorescence (flower cluster) namy flowered, dense but soon elongating, copiously woolly.
  • Flowers perfect (bisexual), irregular in symetry.
  • Bracts simmilar to leaves, white-woolly.
  • Calyx (sepals) 5-toothed, 4-5mm long.
  • Corolla (petals) 15-20mm long, deep pink or rarely white, upper lip slightly arched, lacking teeth.
  • Stamens (male parts) 4, in 2 pairs.


  • Fruit is a capsule.
  • Seed capsules flattened, splitting open lenghtwise between the partitions into the central cavity, 8-13 mm long, ovate in shape with a pointed beak.
  • Seeds large, relatively few per plant, with a loosely fitting, ashy-grey, honeycombed seed-coat.

Not to Be Confused With:

  • Pedicularis langdorfii (Langdorf's Lousewort) is quite simmilar but is lacking the white-woollyness of these plants.
  • Pedicularis vericillata (Whorled Lousewort) which has its stem leaves in whorles and lacks the woollyness of P.lanata (Woolly Lousewort).
  • Pedicularis sudetica (Sudenten Lousewort) which has 2 coloured flowers purple upper lip and pink lower lip and few to no stem leaves.



  • These plants are partial parasites with no outward sing of differing from normal, self-supporting plants.

Life Cycle:

  • Perennial

Seasonal Cycle:

  • Leaves deciduous (falling off).
  • Plants blooming early July.
  • Gone to seed by mid-late July.


Animal Uses:

  • The plant tops are sometimes browsed by cariboo.
  • Generally animals will not eat these plants as they contain poisonous glycosides.
  • Their blossoms are typical bee flowers, with landing platforms, abundant nectar, and bright colours.
  • It is interesting to note that Pedicularis (Louseworts) and Bombus (Bumblebees) share the same geographic range.


  • Wet to dry stony tundra and heathlands




  • Roots yield a yellow dye.
  • Flower stalks, dried, are used for olive green dye.
  • Despite its name, no reference to the use of Pedicularis (Louseworts) for repelling lice was found.


  • An infusion using 7-15ml per 250ml water is said to be an effective sedative. It is also said to act as a mild relaxant for skeletal muscles and the cerebruim, queting anxiety and tension.
  • The plant fresh or dried has mild astringent and antiseptic properties and is used to stop bleeding of minor injuries.


  • Roots taste like young carrots. They are good boiled or roasted or can be eaten raw.
  • Roots or young flowering stems of all Pedicularis (Louseworts) can be eaten raw or used as a pot-herb.

Traditional Gwich'in:





          Traditional Other:



            • Roots were used as a tobacco additive by different folks



              • Flowers are enjoyed by inuit children who suck the nectar from the base of the long tubes.
              • Leaves are used for making tea in parts of Russia


              Plants in bloom in early alipne spring

              Plants grow taller throughout the season

              Very wooly young flowering stem


              Illustration from: Illustrated flora of BC

              Range Maps

              World Range: Circumpolar with large gaps, arctic-alpine; in N.A. from southern GL and northern QC to AK, south to BC and AB.

              Prov/State Abrev. List

              In Yukon: Found throughout the alpine regions

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