Pedicularis lanata
Woolly lousewort

Alaska Wildflowers | Pink

Vibrant Pedicularis lanata, commonly known as Woolly Lousewort, showy pink blooms on the alpine tundra in the White Mountains of Alaska's interior.

Pedicularis lanata
Woolly lousewort

Common Names

pédiculaire laineuse
bumble-bee flower
Ipchuk (Inupiat)
woolly lousewort

Synonyms

Pedicularis kanei
Pedicularis willdenowii
Pedicularis lanata ssp. lanata
Pedicularis kanei ssp. kanei
Pedicularis kanei ssp. yukonensis
Pedicularis lanata ssp. yukonensis

Subspecies

Pedicularis lanata ssp. lanata (Recognized by VASCAN as a subspecies, but not by ITIS which is why this is listed as both a synonym and a subspecies here)

Genus: Pedicularis (lousewort)
Family: Orobanchaceae (broomrape)
Order: Lamiales
full classification

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

Identification and Information

Pedicularis lanata, commonly known as woolly lousewort (Inupiat: Ipchuk), is a short perennial herb that grows 5-30 cm tall from a starchy, thick yellow, branching taproot and caudex but no underground stem. The aerial stems are simple (unbranched) and erect. Flowering stems (and the entire plant) are often dense, white-wool hairy. It has numerous pinnately compound, narrowly lanceolate basal leaves. The basal leaves form a fern-like tuft. The stem leaves are similar but shorter than the basal leaves, alternate, and dye annually. The leaves may be petioled.



The inflorescence is a terminal spike of numerous, densely packed flowers and is densely woolly. The flower pedicels emanate from the axils of the stem leaves. The flowers have green bracts similar to the leaves, reduced upwards. The flowers are bilaterally symmetric and pink to lavender. The corolla (petals) is 5-20 mm long, two- or three-lobed, with a helmet that is not prolonged into a long beak and absent teeth. The calyx (sepals) is 4-5 mm long with five triangular teeth about 1 mm long. The flower has four stamens with long, hairy filaments. It has a single style, 20-24 mm long, with one superior ovary. The fruit is an egg-shaped capsule 8-13 mm long, and the seeds are yellowish and 2-3 mm long.

The dense, woolly hairs that encapsulate the flowers of Pedicularis lanata serve a dual purpose. Primarily, they provide critical insulation, protecting the reproductive structures from the harsh, cold climates where the plant thrives. Additionally, this woolly covering helps to trap moisture around the flowers, mitigating the drying effects of wind and low humidity typical of its alpine and tundra habitats.

Its common name, woolly lousewort, is due to the dense wool covering the plant, but it is less frequently known as the bumblebee flower because it relies on the bees for pollination early in the growth season.


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Uses

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

Pedicularis lanata has numerous traditional, medicinal, and culinary uses. Most commonly, the root is boiled, roasted, or eaten raw and tastes somewhat like young carrots. The Inupiat eat the fermented flower topped with oil and sugar, like sauerkraut. The stems can also be boiled and eaten as a potherb.

People of the Great Slave Region in the Northwest Territories would dry small pieces of the root to mix and smoke with tobacco to relieve headaches. Flora of Dempster Country lists other potential medicinal uses, but I have not verified those with any other sources, so you can check the link here.


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Distribution and Habitat

Map data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), NatureServe Explorer, and Kew

Pedicularis lanata is widely distributed throughout Alaska, particularly north of the Alaska Range, and extends across northern Canada, including British Columbia and Alberta. Its range also encompasses Greenland and extends to eastern Siberia. While some references suggest its presence in Montana, primary sources like GBIF and NatureServe do not confirm this, and thus, it is not included in my distribution map.

Woolly lousewort lives in habitats from wet muskeg to dry, rocky alpine meadows and from flood plains to sandy and silty soils. It is commonly found on mesic to dry rocky slopes, ridges, and grassy tundra within the alpine zone. The plant is remarkably tolerant of various environmental conditions, often growing on substrates such as hummocks, river terraces, tundra, and dry meadows.

Classification

RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (Plants)
SubkingdomTracheobionta (Vascular plants)
SuperdivisionSpermatophyta (Seed plants)
DivisionMagnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
ClassMagnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
SubclassAsteridae
OrderScrophulariales
FamilyScrophulariaceae (Figwort family)
GenusPedicularis L. (lousewort)
SpeciesPedicularis lanata Cham. & Schltdl. (woolly lousewort)

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References and Further Reading

Guidebook

Pratt, V. E. (1989). Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers: Commonly Seen Along Highways and Byways (p. 23). Alaskakrafts, inc.

Classification and Taxonomy

Integrated Taxonomic Information System. (n.d.). Pedicularis lanata. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=33364#null

Brouillet, L., Desmet, P., Coursol, F., Meades, S. J., Favreau, M., Anions, M., Bélisle, P., & Gendreau, C. (n.d.). Pedicularis lanata. VASCAN, the Database of Vascular Plants of Canada. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://data.canadensys.net/vascan/taxon/7054?lang=en

USDA, NRCS. (n.d.). PLANTS Profile for Pedicularis lanata (woolly lousewort). The PLANTS Database. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=PELA14

Uses

Native American Ethnobotany Database. (n.d.). Search results for Pedicularis kanei. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from http://naeb.brit.org/uses/search/?string=Pedicularis+kanei

Flora of Dempster Country. (n.d.). Pedicularis lanata. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://www.flora.dempstercountry.org/0.Site.Folder/Species.Program/Species2.php?species_id=Pedi.lana

see Canadian Museum of Nature link under Description and Information

Map and Distribution

GBIF Secretariat. (n.d.). Pedicularis lanata. GBIF Backbone Taxonomy. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://www.gbif.org/species/3171725

Plants of the World Online. (n.d.). Pedicularis lanata L. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:807250-1

NatureServe. (n.d.). NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.133485/Pedicularis_lanata

Description and Information

Hultén, E. (1968). Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories: A Manual of the Vascular Plants (1st ed.) (pg. 827). Stanford University Press.

Klinkenberg, B. (Ed.). (n.d.). E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia [eflora.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Pedicularis%20lanata&redblue=Both&lifeform=7

Canadian Museum of Nature. (n.d.). Pedicularis lanata. Canadian Arctic Flora. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://nature.ca/aaflora/data/www/scpela.htm

Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. (n.d.). Pedicularis lanata. Flora of North America. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from http://floranorthamerica.org/Pedicularis_lanata


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Blog Comments

We found one of these plants pre-bloom on the Elliot highway in mid-June at lower elevation at the edge of a burn.

Awesome! Do you happen to know the approximate elevation or location and date? I’d like to add more information about blooming times to these pages and the more information the better! I typically see them in full bloom by early June, but that’s usually at higher elevations, alpine tundra in full sun. Thanks for sharing Margie!

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