New territory – Pedicularis

More seed adventures as I enter a new territory – that of the hemi-parasitic plants. Many beautiful and garden desirable species belong to this category, some not impossible to grow from seeds, most notably Castilleja spp. and Pedicularis spp. (Orobanchaceae, formerly Scrophulariaceae).
By coincidence, just after I collected a few Castilleja coccinea seeds, someone asked me if I would be interested in hemi-parasitic plants. And so, I got the chance to exchange it for Pedicularis oederi seeds ;)

Pedicularis oederi, Oeder’s lousewort, is an alpine species found in China, Japan, Russia, C and N. Europe (very rare in the Carpathian Mts.), and North America. Like many other Pedicularis spp., it has beautiful ferny looking foliage and it flowers for a very long time, producing yellow/crimson tipped flowers.

Pedicularis oederi

Pedicularis oederi – growing in the Carpathian Mts. at aprox. 2000 m alt.

Another Pedicularis that I am dreaming to grow one day is Pedicularis verticillata – whorled lousewort or Bumblebee flower, with whorled inflorescences of rich, purple-pink flowers. It grows in alpine tundra turf and rocky slopes from Japan, Russia, arctic C, N, and S Europe to NW America.

Pedicularis verticillata

Pedicularis verticillata with Bistorta vivipara in the Carpathian Mts.

An alpine meadow with Pedicularis verticillata in flower it is a sight to behold.

Pedicularis verticillata2

The good news is that most hemi-parasitic plants have a wide range of hosts and have been shown to germinate even without their presence. Various Pedicularis are parasitic on species of Poaceae, Ericaceae, Salix, Aster; but many others species have been also cited as hosts. Most notably, a study done on Bartsia alpina and Pedicularis lapponica found that both would form haustorial connections with Pinguicula vulgaris (Lentibulariaceae).

One method that is working somehow for these plants, involves the direct sowing outdoors – if you have something looking like a natural meadow, which I don’t. For my experiment, I split the P. oederi seeds in 4 portions. Even if I am not successful, I am sure I will learn something from it.

– Seeds sown by a gardening friend outdoors in the vicinity of an Erica plant.
– Seeds sown at our place, outdoors in the vicinity of Polygonum affine and Deschampsia caespitosa.
– Seeds sown together with Pinguicula vulgaris in a pot that will undergo cold/stratification outside over the winter.
– Few remaining seeds will be sown together with Carex grayi (a nice NA native sedge that can grow in full sun).

But there are many other wonderful Pedicularis out there! The excitement of a new territory…

Update 2016: I wasn’t succesful with any of the above,yet. Sometimes it takes 2 years for seeds to germinate so the ones in pots are not a lost cause. The ones sown in situ probably have been disturbed by the squirrels. More sowings have been done, this time only in pots in pieces of turf. One has to persevere :)

10 replies
    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      Thank you. There are so many species and some even more beautiful, but slim chances to get seeds.

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      Thanks. Most Pedicularis, at least the alpine ones like P. verticillata, share the same geographic distribution with their pollinators, the Bumblebees. That is, in all alpine regions where the bumblebees occur, there should be a Pedicularis somewhere around, and vice-versa :)

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      In older times people believed Pedicularis to be the reason of lice infestation in livestock, hence the common name louseworts.

  1. Jed
    Jed says:

    Thank You!
    Really like this site and blog, truly hands on.
    In process of getting a small seed permit for US shipping.
    Am looking forward to growing seed and leaning more from this site and the list of excellent links.
    Best Wishes

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      Thank you; I am glad for every person I convert to growing plants from seeds :)
      If applying for the small permit (which I really don’t understand why some people make such a big deal) take care to follow instructions on my USA shipping and delivery.
      A note – in the space saying “taxa” write “all species allowed” and in “countries” – “all countries allowed”. This way the permit can be used for buying seeds of various species and from any country (allowed).

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