- Family: Broomrape Family – Orobanchaceae
(formerly Figwort Family – Scrophulariaceae)
- Growing form: Annual herb. Hemiparasite.
- Height: 10–30 cm (4–12 in.). Stem erect, sparsely-branched.
- Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, bilabiate, 7–9 mm (ca. 0.3–0.35 in.) long. Petals 4, united, deep yellow, with fairly short tube, laterally flattened upper lip and downwards curved lower lip. Sepals 4, united, calyx bell-shaped, short-hairy. Stamens 4. Pistil of 2 fused carpels. Flowers in pairs in the axils of usually entire bracts on one side of the stem.
- Leaves: Opposite. Generally unstalked, lanceolate to almost linear, usually with entire margin, tapering to a long point, almost hairless.
- Fruit: Two-seeded, ridged, dark brown capsule, as long as calyx.
- Habitat: Moist woods, mixed spruce-broadleaf forests, moist scrub, meadows, field margins.
- Flowering time: June–August.
Genus Melampyrum comprises 25–35 species (in Finland 5 species). Small cow-wheat is an ant-dispersed annual. It is somewhat more demanding, as regards nutrients, than common cow-wheat (M. pratense). However, these species can also grow mixed. In Finland small cow-wheat is rare in the northernmost parts of the country even though, in general, it has a more northern distribution than common cow-wheat.
For a reliable distinction between small and common cow-wheat, one should observe the flowers. Small cow-wheat’s flowers are smaller and of a darker shade of yellow. The lower lip of small cow-wheat’s corolla is bent downwards, whereas that of common cow-wheat is straight. Both species are hemiparasites.