This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol5-6", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
As an Arctic plant the occurrence of this plant in Neolithic beds in Edinburgh and Renfrewshire is quite what one would expect. It is general throughout the Arctic and Temperate Zones in Arctic Europe (but not in Spain or Greece) and N. Asia. It is found in all parts of Great Britain, except N. Somerset, as far north as the Shetlands up to 1800 ft. in the Highlands. It is native in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Marsh Red Rattle is a typical hygrophile, growing in wet marshy ground at the sides of pools where thick reed-beds are formed. It is also common to the sides of streams which have overflowed. Growing in true bogs with bog species it merges into the marsh and wet-meadow type of plant. It is a hemi-parasite living on grass roots.
This plant is bushy, erect, and compact, with several ascending branches springing just above the base. The leaves have lobes each side of a common stalk, and the leaflets are deeply and regularly much divided nearly to the base, giving the plant very much the appearance of a bracken fern. The branches are purple-tinged, a feature of marsh plants. The whole plant is smooth.
The flowers are large and reddish-purple or crimson. The calyx is much inflated, downy, ovate, egg-shaped, and divided into two deeply-cut lobes. The upper part of the corolla has a short, blunt beak, with a triangular lobe each side. The capsule is curved and longer than the calyx.
The plant is 2 ft. in height very frequently. It flowers in June and July. It is annual, and propagated by division. It is quite worth placing in the bog-garden.
The flowers are like those of P. sylvatica, but the tube is shorter. They contain honey secreted at the base of the ovary. The corolla has a cylindrical tube with an enlarged throat into which insects thrust the head. The upper lip is 3-toothed, narrow; the lower, 3-lobed, serving as an alighting-place. The 4 stamens are concealed by the upper lip. The two posterior anther-stalks are hairy, and serve to protect the honey from the rain and flies, and the anthers are adherent by the close-set hairs near the base in Common Red Rattle, but not in this plant, as they are close together.
The seeds, contained in a capsule which splits open above, are dispersed around the plant automatically or by the wind.
A cluster-cup fungus, Puc-cinia paludosa, attacks the leaves. A beetle, Longitar-sus holsaticus, infests Marsh Lousewort.
Pedicularis, Gerarde, is from the Latin pediculus, louse, because it was said to produce a lousy disease in sheep. The second Latin name refers to the marshy habitat.
This plant is called Cock's - comb, Cow's - wort, Dead Men's Bellows, Rattle-grass, Lousewort, Moss Flower, Red Rattle, Suckies. I he name Rattle-grass, according to Gerarde, is explained because the dry, somewhat inflated calices rattle audibly when shaken. Lyte explains Lousewort as follows: "In Latine Pedicularis, that is to say Louse herbe, in high Dutch Leuszkraut, by cause the cattell that pasture where plentie of this grass groweth become full of lice". But this is due to their poor condition.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Marsh Red Rattle (Pedicularis palustris, L.)
Essential Specific Characters: 240. Pedicularis palustris, L. - Stem erect, solitary, purple, branched throughout, leaves pinnatifid, flowers crimson, calyx hairy, ovoid, 2-lobed.