Wood Betony; Lousewort (Pedicularis Canadensis)

Wood Betony; Lousewort (Pedicularis Canadensis) is a peculiar plant that we find in dry woods and thickets and often along roadsides. It almost always has an unkempt appearance due chiefly to the fact that the florets grow from the flowering head with little regard to symmetry, and the leaves are rolled, folded, twisted or bent out of shape. It has many cognomens, one at least being undeserved, that of Lousewort, this being applied because of an early, mistaken belief of farmers that it had insects that infested sheep that fed upon its foliage. It is quite commonly called Beefsteak Plant because of the color of the upper lips of the flowers and because the leaves and stem are often stained with a purplish brown.

The flowering stems are stout, hairy and leafy; they rise to heights of 6 to 18 inches. The leaves are all fernlike in form; many of them rise on long hairy stems from the roots and smaller ones alternate up the flower stalk. The flower spike is short and densely flowered and contains many small bract-like leaves among the tubular flowers. The corolla is composed of two lips, the upper one being arched and strongly curved or hooked at the tip; four stamens are gathered under the shelter of the upper lip and a slender pistil projects through and beyond a small tooth or notch in the end of it; the lower lip is shorter, three-lobed and yellowish in color. The upper lip varies from a yellowish green in freshly opened flowers to a dull reddish on the mature blossoms, this latter being the beefsteak color alluded to in one of its common names.

Wood Betony is found from Nova Scotia to Manitoba and southwards. It is quite abundant throughout its range and its flowers may be found from early in May to the latter part of July.