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Moor-king

Pedicularis sceptrum-carolinum

  • Name also: Moor-king Lousewort
  • Family: Broomrape Family – Orobanchaceae
    (formerly Figwort Family – Scrophulariaceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock erect. Hemiparasite.
  • Height: 40–80 cm (16–32 in.). Stem branchless, rigid, virtually glabrous, often brownish red.
  • Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, yellow, approx. 30 mm (1.2 in.) long, fused, bilabiate, with long tube, closed, ascending oblique. Upper lip flat-sided, lower lip 3-lobed, lobe edges red. Calyx bilabiate, 5-lobed. Stamens 4. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Inflorescence a terminal spike.
  • Leaves: Mainly a basal rosette, on stem only a few small leaves around the stem at most, stalked. Blade pinnately lobed, lobes with rounded teeth (crenate).
  • Fruit: Virtually spherical, glabrous, brown, capsule opening from one side.
  • Habitat: Infertile lake, river and stream shores, seepage surfaces, peat-covered areas, moist meadows, grazing land, ditches.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

In the Finnish context, moor-king grows especially in the north. The further south we go, the rarer the species becomes, and especially during its flowering time it is more successful in the north. In flower the plant is a splendid sight with yellow flowers terminating a stem that is almost a metre (40 in.) high, standing out from a long way away in its favoured open habitat. Linné placed the plant in genus Pedicularis, even if its exceptional size and appearance might have been grounds for it to have a genus of its own.

Finding moor-king’s handsome flowers probably doesn’t present insects with much of a problem, but gaining access to them is a different natter. The lobes on the lower labellum are pushed tightly against the tip of the upper lobe and on the other side the edges of the labella have become intertwined with each other. The only way into the flower is to the left, and only the strongest insects, such as queen bees, are able to push the lower labellum out of the way to get to the nectar at the bottom of the tube. The fact that the flowers are so needlessly difficult for most insects to get into is probably why it has such poor seed production.

Moor-king grows on damp sloping meadows and bogs in birch woodland in the fell region. It has become rare in the south.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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