Capitate lousewort – Pedicularis capitata

Alaska Wildflowers | Yellow

The yellow flower of the capitate lousewort (Pedicularis capitata)

Capitate lousewort

Pedicularis capitata

Common Names

capitate lousewort
many-headed lousewort


Pedicularis nelsonii



Genus: Pedicularis
Family: Orobanchaceae
Order: Lamiales
Full Classification

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

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Identification and Information

Capitate lousewort is an herbaceous plant that grows from a slender rhizome. The stem is 2-14 cm (0.75-5.5 inches tall), unbranched, and without leaves. The plant has 2-3 ovate or elliptic, pinnatifid (feather-like or fern-like) basal leaves. The leaf surface may be glabrous or hirsute.

The inflorescence is one or two capitate racemes with 2-8 flowers. It has leaf-like green or reddish-tinged bracts. The flowers are composed of a calyx (sepals) that are 5-lobed and 10-15 mm long. The corolla (petals) are a longer, 19-40mm long, curved, two-lobed helmet that is light yellow to cream and diffuse purple at the apex. The corolla tube contains 4 sets of 2 stamens.

Similar to Labrador lousewort, P. capitata is partially parasitic.

One Inuit name for the flower is kukiujait, meaning resembles you fingernail, they are also called bananas because the corolla looks somewhat like a banana.

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For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

The plant contains poisonous glycosides, however, there are references to the corolla (petals) being edible and sweet tasting.

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Distribution and Habitat

In North America, P. capitata is found in Alaska, northern Canada, as well as British Columbia and Alberta. The USDA also lists Quebec, but I found no other records of instances there. It is also found in northern and eastern Siberia. Both the USDA and GBIF list Greenland as well, but it is worth noting that GBIF only has one reported occurrence.

Its habitat mostly consists of arctic or alpine tundras and alpine slopes. It prefers moist soils, but tolerates a wide range of soils with different moisture content.


RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae  (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
   SubkingdomViridiplantae  (green plants)
      InfrakingdomStreptophyta  (land plants)
            DivisionTracheophyta  (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
               SubdivisionSpermatophytina  (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
                           FamilyOrobanchaceae  (broomrape)
                              GenusPedicularis L. (lousewort)
                                 SpeciesPedicularis capitata M.F. Adams (capitate lousewort)

References and Further Reading


Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg. 32

Classification and Taxonomy

Pedicularis capitata M.F. Adams Taxonomic Serial No.: 33353, ITIS Database

Pedicularis capitata M.F. Adams capitate lousewort, USDA Database


Pedicularis capitata : Many-headed Lousewort, Central Yukon Species Inventory Project

Pedicularis capitata Published by Daniel Mosquin on July 5, 2017, UBC Botanical Garden

Map and Distribution

P. capitata Capitate Lousewort, NatureServe Explorer

P. capitata Adams Published in: Adams. In: Mem. Soc. Nat. Mosc. 5: 100. (1817), GBIF

Description and Information

Pedicularis capitata : Many-headed Lousewort, Central Yukon Species Inventory Project

P. capitata Adams Nouv. Mém. Soc. Imp. Naturalistes Moscou 5: 100. 1817., Flora of North America

Pedicularis capitata Adams, Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

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