Pedicularis capitata : Many-headed 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: capitata (Lat. capus = a head; referring to the dense, head-like cluster of flowers)

English Name(s):

Many-headed Lousewort, Few-flowered/ head-shaped Lousewort/ Fernplant

First Nation Names:




  • Mostly basal, pinnately divided, long petioled (stalked).
  • Segments lobed or deeply cut and margins toothed.
  • glabrous to pubescent.

Reproductive Parts:

  • Inflorescence (flower cluster) capitate (head-like), with leaf like bracts, flowers few to several.
  • Flowers perfect (bisexual), irregular in symetry.
  • Calyx (sepals) 5-lobed, 9-16mm long, lobed 4-10mm long, tips somewhat round toothed.
  • Corolla (petals) 25-40mm long, creamy yellow tinged with rose or purple at apex, upper lip strongly arched usually with a pair of teeth near the tip, lower lip 3-lobed, hairy at the base, half as long as upper lip.
  • Stamens (male parts) 4, in 2 pairs.


  • Fruit is a capsule.
  • Seed capsules flattened, splitting open lenghtwise between the partitions into the central cavity, 12-15mm long.
  • Seeds large, relatively few per plant.

Not to Be Confused With:

  • This Pedicularis (Lousewort) is easily distinguished from the others in our region by its fewer but larger and arched flowers.



  • These plants are partial parasites with no outward sing of differing from normal, self-supporting plants.
  • The corolla (petals) acts as a tiny greenhouse and the average temperature inside are 4C higher than outside on sunny caml days.

Life Cycle:

  • Perennial

Seasonal Cycle:

  • Leaves deciduous (falling off).
  • In bloom to mid-July.
  • Gone to seed by end of July.


Animal Uses:

  • 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.
  • In some areas these plants are entirely dependent on bumblebees for pollenation.


    Moist or dry, calcareous, gravelly, tundra or heath.




  • 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 or young flowering stems of all Pedicularis (Louseworts) can be eaten raw or used as a pot-herb.

Traditional Gwich'in:





          Traditional Other:






                  plant in bloom

                  Tell pale flowers

                  erect leaves

                  Illustration from: Illustrated flora of BC

                  Range Maps

                  World Range: Circumpolar with large gaps, arctic-alpine; In N.A from Northern Greenland, NU, and QC to AK, south to AB and BC.

                  Prov/State Abrev. List

                  In Yukon: Found throuout the mountainous regions

                  To Top Of Page