- Family: Broomrape Family – Orobanchaceae
(formerly Figwort Family – Scrophulariaceae)
- Growing form: Annual herb. Taproot small. Hemiparasite.
- Height: 15–30 cm (6–12 in.). Stem 4-edged, finely haired, reddish; initially branchless, in early autumn basal and middle part abundant and long-branched, branches arched from base, flowering.
- Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, red, approx. 10 mm (0.4 in.) long, fused, bilabiate, with long tube, hairy. Upper lip with notched, convex tip; lower lip 3-lobed, central lobe with notched tip, side lobes round-tipped. Calyx widely campanulate (bell-shaped), 4-lobed, lobes narrow, tapered. Stamens 4. A single carpel, body protruding from flower. Inflorescence a one-sided, long, sparse, at least initially nodding terminal spike.
- Leaves: Opposite, stalkless, longer than stalk internodes. Blade narrowly ovate–narrowly lanceolate, with tapered tip, both sides rigidly haired, with sparsely shallow-toothed margin. Subtending bracts often reddish.
- Fruit: Long, brown, hairy, approx. 5.5 mm (0.44 in.) long, usually same length as calyx, capsule opening along seams.
- Habitat: Road and field banks, pastures, yards, wasteland, boat harbours, seashore meadows.
- Flowering time: July–September.
Bartsias steal nutrition from the roots of nearby hays and herbs, despite the fact that it also assimilates itself. A hemiparasitic way of life helps those annuals complete their full life cycle in the short growing season of the north. Red bartsia begins its flowering time already in June. Like many other plants in the Broomrape family one can follow its appearance as the summer progresses: summer forms have longer nodes and larger flowers than the highly branched autumn form. There are however many intermediary forms between these examples.
Red bartsia was classified long ago as a mutation of red rattle, sometimes named ‘wrongly’ as red bartsia (O. vernus). This artcle’s red bartsia (O. vulgaris) begins to branch from its base and middle already, but red rattle only branches at its crown. Salt bartsia (O. litoralis) grows by the sea in Finland and is often completely unbranched. Red bartsia seems to be native to Finland and grows alongside salt bartsia on the same shores, but nowadays it is more likely to be found in all kinds of inhabited areas and damp, short-growth places such as field margins, fallow ground and roadsides.