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   The genus name, "Pedicularis", given by Linnaeus in 1753, is derived from the Latin "pediculus", "louse".  A bygone belief had it that the plant gave lice to people and cattle.  Or, according to some sources, the plant was thought to cure people or cattle of lice!  "Wort" is from the Old English, "wyrt", meaning "plant" (Figwort, Spiderwort, Spleenwort).  Many members of the Pedicularis genus are also commonly called "Wood Betony".

To yellow Pedicularis   To Pedicularis racemosa    To Pedicularis groenlandica

Pedicularis centranthera

Pedicularis centranthera

Pedicularis centranthera

Pedicularis centranthera

Pedicularis centranthera (Spring Lousewort)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands. Spring.
Above: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, March 17, 2005 and May 3, 2009.
Left: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 10, 2010 and April 16, 2004.

Early spring walkers will find this delightful plant under and near Junipers, usually in sandy areas.  When the plant flowers it is quite small and difficult to find.

Flowers range from one to two inches long and leaves grow from their early miniatures to over six inches long. The plant at top left is just emerging from the ground and floral tubes are just a half inch long with even smaller leaves.

Leaves commonly have strong purple hews that are masked by the eventual production of chlorophyll.

The flowers have the typical hood and beak of the Pedicularis genus. 

"Centranthera" refers to the "pointed" (Greek "centrum") "anthers".

John Bigelow first collected this plant in New Mexico in the 1850s, and Asa Gray named and described it in 1858.

Pedicularis centranthera
Pedicularis centranthera (Spring Lousewort)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 19, 2010.

Until Betty and I found this clump of Pedicularis centranthera, we had never noticed the stamens protruding from the flowers.  Very cute!

Pedicularis centranthera
Pedicularis centranthera (Spring Lousewort)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands. Spring.
Mesa Verde National Park, May 16, 2017.

Flowers of Pedicularis centranthera fade to brown in a few weeks, and thick green seed pods develop. The leaves rapidly grow much longer. The entire plant dries and is gone by early summer.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Pedicularis centranthera