Lathraea squamaria L.

2889 (1), L. squamaria L., Sp. Pl. ed. 1 (1753) 605; Hayek, Prodr. Fl. Penins. Balc. П (1929) 208; Webb9 Fl. Eur. 1П (1972) 281 — Обикновена горска майка

Fam:   Scrophulariaceae Juss.
Genus:   Lathraea L.
Species: Lathraea squamaria L.
English Name: Common toothwort


Perennial planr. Rhizome usually reddish or pink, glandular fibrous, branched. Stem simple, slightly leafy, erect, rarely ascending, 15 - 30 cm high, 7 - 8 mm in diameter, juicy, smooth, glandular fibrous, white or yellowish at the bottom, pinkish red above. Leaves scaly, fleshy, rounded ovate to almost rhombic, at the top most often obtusely pointed, 5 - 10 (13) mm long and 3.5 - 8 mm wide. Bracts leaf-like, rhombic, wedge-shaped at the base, short triangularly pointed at the apex, purple-pink, paler on the periphery, 4 - 8 mm long, consecutive, curved to one side and arranged in two rows. The flowers of  3 - 6 (10) mm long petioles, collected in a dense one-sided class cluster. Calyx bell-shaped, 8 - 12 mm long, glandular fibrous, pink, divided to 4 teeth in the middle; both posterior ovate, wider and slightly longer; frontal elliptically lance. Corolla tubular, 14 - 17 (20) mm long, bilobed, extended to the opening; upper lip entire, boat-shaped, with keel, pink; lower slightly shorter, 3-part, whitish; shares short and blunt. Stamens 4 attached to or above the middle of the wreath tube; petioles glandular fibrous, two of the stamens longer; anthers protruding slightly above the corolla, covered with long curly hairs. The ovary is ovoid, gradually narrowed to the apex into a long bare style; stigma head disc-shaped. The box is ovoid, 8 - 12 mm long, flat or slightly longer than the calyx. Seeds numerous, 1 - 1.3 mm in diameter, spherical, grayish, dried brownish.

Economic significance. The common forest mother is a poisonous plant. Contains the glycoside aucubin. In folk medicine in some countries it is used to treat epilepsy, colic and spasms. In Bulgaria it is used during pregnancy as a means of strengthening the uterus. Hence its name Forest Mother. Cut into small pieces, it is placed in the yoke of the cattle to increase the milk.

From:   „Флора на Република България”, том X, Академично издателство „Проф. Марин Дринов”, Б А Н, София, (1995)

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Lathraea squamaria, the common toothwort, is a species of flowering plant in the family Orobanchaceae. It is widely distributed in Europe and also occurs in Turkey.

It is parasitic on the roots of hazel and alder, and occasionally other trees, and represents the second occasion on which a member of the family Orobanchaceae lost the ability to photosynthesize and became parasitic.[1] It occurs in shady places such as deciduous woodland and hedge sides. The plant consists of a branched whitish underground stem closely covered with thick, fleshy, colourless leaves, which are bent over so as to hide under the surface. The only portions that appear above ground in April to May are the short flower-bearing shoots, which bear a spike of two-lipped dull purple flowers, but is also able to produce cleistogamic underground flowers which fertilise themselves. It is also able to regenerate from broken fragments of the underground stem.[2]


Toothwort is a perennial plant producing clumps of flowering shoots in late spring. The low, hairy, creamy-pink flowering shoot grow in a one-sided spike to a height of 3 to 9 in (8 to 23 cm). The few scales on the stem represent the leaves, but the whole shoot is devoid of chlorophyll. The individual pinkish flowers are drooping and have short stalks, two lips and open mouths. The calyx teeth are blunt and hairy.[3] The scales which represent the leaves also secrete water, which escapes and softens the ground around the plant. Externally they immediately reveal their heterotrophic character by their lack of chlorophyll and the reduction of their leaf area.[2]

Distribution and habitat

Common toothwort is widely distributed throughout Europe, its range extending from France and Norway to Russia, Bulgaria, Italy and Greece.[4] In the British Isles, it is found in England and Northern Ireland, and less often in lowland areas of East England, Southwest England, Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. Its natural habitats are deciduous woodland, hedgerows and the banks of rivers and streams.[5] It grows in Hatherton Flush, an SSSI in Cheshire.[6]

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Flowering Time: Blooms: III - IV, fruitful: V - VI

References: „Флора на Република България”, том X, Академично издателство „Проф. Марин Дринов”, Б А Н, София, (1995), Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Distribution in Bulgaria: Growing in moist forests and bushes in the lowlands and mountains. It parasitizes on species of alder, hazel, beech, poplar, etc. Widespread, from sea level to 1200 m altitude. (Conspectus of the Bulgarian Vascular Flora) = conspectus&gs_l= Zlc.

Distribution: Central and Western Europe, Mediterranean, Caucasus, Southwest Asia (Asia Minor, Iran), Indo-Himalayan region.

Conservation status and threats: not protected species in Bulgaria by the Biodiversity Law. - Biological Diversity Act -

Medical plant: yes, it is - Medicinal Plants Act -

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