Stems: stout, high, erect, simple. Leaves: linear in outline, the radical ones petioled, pinnate, the oblong leaflets pinnately parted, the segments incisely dentate, cauline broader in outline; bracts ovate, shorter than the flowers. Flowers: spike cylindrical, very dense; calyx sparsely pilose; corolla ochroleucous, the tube equalling the calyx; galea longer and larger than the lower lip, its cucullate summit slightly produced at the entire endentulate orifice, but not beaked.
A tall coarse plant, with handsome, green, fern-like foliage, but clumsy uninteresting flowers. On the top of the stout reddish stems grow large, hairy, bracted spikes, with many small dull red flowers, which resemble a parrot's beak, with their raised hooded upper lips and small lower ones.
These flowers are subtended by conspicuous bracts, hence the name bracteosa.
The Romans had a proverb, "Sell your coat and buy Betony," and another old saying was, "May you have more virtues than Betony." Antoninus Musa, physician to the Emperor Augustus, wrote in high praise of its powers, stating that it would cure forty-seven of the ills to which human flesh is heir.
Franzins, in his History of Brutes, alludes to its healing virtues for animals. He says of the stag, "When he is wounded with a dart, the only cure he hath is to eate some of the herbe called Betony, which helpeth both to draw out the dart and to heale the wound."
Sir William Hooker is our authority for saying that the common name is a corruption of Bentonic, ben meaning "head," and ton "good " or "tonic."
Pedicularis grccnlcmdica, or Elephant's Head, is so-called from the close resemblance of its blossoms to a miniature elephant's head, the flat forehead, long drooping ears and curving trunk being all perfectly outlined.
This Pedicularis has slender, rather brittle, red stalks, which are clothed with many small, fern-like, reddish leaves, and a group of tall fringed foliage grows up about it from the ground. It is a tall plant, often attaining a height of eighteen inches, and its terminal spikes are long and densely flowered with tiny dull red blossoms, which have a toothed calyx that is nearly as long as the tooth of the corolla. The corolla is two-lipped, the upper lip, or galea, being concave and having a long thread-like beak, while the lower one is three-lobed.