Elephant-head Lousewort
Pedicularis groenlandica Retz.
Family: Scrophulariaceae, Figwort
Genus: Pedicularis
Other names: elephant's head
Nomenclature: groenlandica = of Greenland
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Medicinal plant
Toxic plant

General: erect perennial, 15-70 cm tall, coarsely fibrous-rooted, sometimes with an evident stem base, mostly hairless throughout. The stems reddish-purple, often clustered.

Leaves: basal leaves 5-25 cm long, the blade equaling or exceeding the stalk, 0.5-4 cm wide, the pinnate segments narrow, sharply toothed, often with somewhat firm but elastic edges. Stem leaves alternate, several, gradually reduced upward.

Flowers: many in a dense, elongate, spike-like cluster. Bracts mostly much shorter than the flowers, at least the lower more or less cleft into narrow segments. Calyx lobes 5, short, entire, almost equal, often edged with minute hairs. Corolla pink-purple or almost red, 1-1.5 cm long, the upper lip short and strongly hooded, tipped with a slender, elongate, conspicuously upturned beak, like an elephant trunk. Lower lip rather small. June-August.

Fruits: capsules, hairless, curved and flattened.


Wet meadows, and in small, cold streams, at moderate to high elevations in the mountains, in w. and c. parts of MT. Also from B.C. and Alberta to CA and NM, and across c. Canada to Labrador.
Medicinal Uses

The Cheyenne Drug used a tea of powdered leaves and stems taken to stop or loosen a coughs. They also used a tea of smashed leaves and stems taken for coughs.

Toxic Properties

Louseworts can be eaten in small quantities in an emergency, but contain enough poisonous glycosides to cause severe illness if they are eaten in quantity.

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