Toothwort

Common name:
Toothwort
Latin:
Lathraea squamaria
Irish:
Slánú fiacla
Family:
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)
Flowering period:
March to May
Native:
Yes
Habitat:
: grows on the roots of various native trees including hazel
Conservation Status:
limited distribution in the Burren and throughout Ireland

Brief Description:

A small plant with creamy white or pinkish flowers held on one side of short stout stems.   Leaves reduced to whitish scaly bracts.  This fascinating plant is entirely lacking in green  colour and is parasitic on the roots of hazel trees (Corylus avellana) from which it gains all its energy.  The bulk of this plant remains hidden underground.

Noteworthy characteristics

A small plant with creamy white or pinkish flowers held on one side of short stout stems.   Leaves reduced to whitish scaly bracts.  This fascinating plant is entirely lacking in green  colour and is parasitic on the roots of hazel trees (Corylus avellana) from which it gains all its energy.  The bulk of this plant remains hidden underground.

Uses and other points of interest

There are no noted uses for toothwort recorded in Ireland. It is thought that the use from which it takes its name , to heal tooth pain, may have been referring to a different plant in the Irish flora

The name toothwort may make reference to the tooth shaped form of its modified leaves

Lathraea derives from Greek Lathraios meaning ‘hidden’, as this parasitic plant is largely concealed underground, only emerging to flower.

 

Personal note

A mysterious and  ephemeral plant with a delicate and intriguing beauty. I never realised how beautiful this small little flower was until I spotted  it for the first time in the Burren last year  clustered around the base of some hazel trees. Delightful!

 

 

 

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