Melampyrum arvense L.

2884 (2). M. arvense L., Sp. Pl. ed. 1 (1753) 605; Hayek, Prodr. Fl. Penins. Balc., III (1929) 199; Şoó et Webb, Fl. Eur. III (1972) 254 — Полска гайтаника

Fam:   Scrophulariaceae Juss.
Genus:   Melampyrum L.
Species: Melampyrum arvense L.
English Name: Field cow wheat


An annual plant. Stem 15 - 50 cm high, erect, almost cylindrical at the base, more or less quadrangular at the top, covered with short white, close-fitting hairs, simple or branched; branches 5 - 15 (20) cm long, usually arched upwards. Leaves 2 - b (7) cm long, 5 - 8 (10) mm wide, lance, rarely linear, 2 - 6 cm long, 2 - 5 mm wide, often mixed, gradually narrowed and pointed towards the top, along the edge with sharp teeth, on both sides entire or at least on the veins covered with short white hairs; lower entire, most often falling during flowering; the middle entire or as well as the upper ones at the base with 2 - 4 linearly lance or linearly pointed, 3 - 7 mm long teeth. Without or with 1 - 4 pairs of intercalary leaves. Flowers developing from III - IV node upwards. Inflorescence dense cylindrical class, 3.5 - 10 (14) cm long and 2 - 2.5 cm wide. Bracts flat, ovate or ovate-lance, (1,7) 2,2 - 2,5 cm long and 3 - 7 mm wide; purple or pale green to almost whitish, basically with (4) 6 - 8 and more punctate, black or brown nectaries, usually arranged in 2 rows or less often without them, glabrous or short-fibrous, deeply crested; teeth linearly acuminate, pointedly pointed, 3 - 8. (9) mm long. Calyx 13 - 18 (20) mm long, almost equal to the crowned tube, covered with 0.1 - 0.3 mm long hairs, cut to the middle or deeper; teeth linearly acuminate, 8 - 12 mm long, often arched outwards; on the edge and on the veins shortly fibrous. Corolla 20 - 25 mm long, closed, usually pink or purple, rarely yellow, short fibrous on the outside, in the throat, and often on the lower lip with a yellow or white spot; lower lip with curled up edge. Anthers with almost equally long appendages. The ovary naked; the style 6 - 8 times longer than the ovary, from the base curved upwards, and below the lower lip - downwards. The box is 6 - 10 (12) mm long and 4 - 7 mm wide, back ovoid, shorter than the cup. Seeds together with the appendage 6 - 7 mm long and 3.5 - 4.5 mm wide, ovoid, brownish or black.


1    Internodes numerous, short; leaves narrow lance, 0.5 - 1 cm wide ....................................... 2
1* Internodes few, elongated; leaves (0.8) 1 - 1.7 cm wide, fleshy ..................... subsp. schinzii (Ronn.) Ronn., Vierteljahr. Naturf. Ges. Zürich LV (1910) 310; M. schinzii Ronn. in Schinz et Кеll., Fl. Switzerland, ed. 3.1 (1909) 488; M. arvense var. schinzii (Ronn.) Paucâ et Nyár., Fl. R. P. Rom. VII (1960) 628; Stoyan., Stef., Kitan., Fl. Bulg., Ed. 4, II (1967) 978. S. Rila (Samokov region). Mountain ecotype.
2   Stem simple or with several pairs of short, sterile branches; without intercalary leaves or with 1 pair; flowers developing from VIII - XII node upwards .......................... subsp. arvense. Widespread. Weed ecotype.
2* Stem with many flowering branches; intercalary leaves 3 - 4 pairs; the flowers developing from XII — XVI node upwards ......... subsp. pseudobarbatum (Schur) Wettst Denkschr. Acad. Wiss. Wien LXX (1900) 332: M. psedobarbatum Schur, Verb. Mitt. Siebenb. Ver. Naturally. IV (1835) 56; M. arvense subsp. pseudobarbatum (Schur) Hayek, op. c. 200; M. arvense var. pseudobarbatum (Schur) Nydr., Kv. Fl. (1941 - 1944) 481; Стоян., Стеф., Китан., 1. c. Widespread. Autumn ecotype.

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

*     *     *     *     *

Melampyrum arvense, commonly known as field cow-wheat, is an herbaceous flowering plant of the genus Melampyrum in the family Orobanchaceae.[1] It is striking because of the conspicuous spike of pink or purple terminal bracts which includes the flowers.


The upright stems of this species, which may branch, are terminated by a spike of pink to purple bracts amongst which the tubular flowers appear. Younger, lower bracts are green however, as the pink/purple colour appears and deepens only with time. The plant grows up to 40 or 60 cm high.[2][3]
The ordinary leaves are lanceolate and opposite and may have short teeth. The bracts are also lanceolate and have long teeth up to 8 mm.[4] The flowers are two-lipped with a closed throat and are 2 – 2.5 cm long. They are pink to purple with a yellow or white patch.

Distribution, season, ecology

This European plant flowers from June to September.[2][5] It is favoured by a dry habitat and chalky soil.[6][7]
It is distributed throughout Western Europe except in central & southern Spain, southern Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Norway, central and northern Sweden, and northern Finland. Also its range extends east to the Ural Mountains and it is found in Turkey. In Great Britain it only occurs in a few locations in south-east England.[3][4][5][8] It is becoming rarer, at least in Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland; this may be due to a reduced area of arable land and changes in farming practices, such as seed-cleaning and intensification.[3][7][9]
This species is hemiparasitic, commonly on the roots of grasses but also on those of other plants. It cannot flourish without a host from which to take nutrients.[3] In an experiment where the growth of M. arvense was compared on rye grass, alfalfa and flax, it was found to grow much the best on the leguminous plant, alfalfa.[10]
The flowers are pollinated by bumblebees. The seeds may be dispersed by ants which are attracted by a small oil body attached to each seed and which carry them to their nests for food.[3] Like some other species of Melampyrum, on their undersides the bracts have minute nectar-producing glands which attract ants, bumblebees and other insects. These glands are violet in the case of M. arvense, are visible under a hand lens, and take the form of minute scales (about 0.45mm in diameter) which secrete a sugary solution.[11]

Human impact

Field cow-wheat is an annual weed of arable fields as well as a component of some natural grassy meadow ecosystems. The seeds are poisonous because they hold aucubin.[6] The plant is being targeted by some groups for conservation projects and policy. As with Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus species), it is sometimes considered to be a valuable part of restoration projects by reducing the vigor, and cover, of grasses and legumes. This enables more forbs (wildflowers) to colonize the land, increasing diversity as well as the land's nectar and pollen production. It is also considered to have aesthetic value.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

*     *     *     *     *

Flowering Time: Blooms: V - VII, fruitful: VII - IX.

Distribution in Bulgaria: Growing in pastures, crops, bushes and meadows in the lowlands and mountains. Widespread, from sea level to 1600 m above sea level. (Conspectus of the Bulgarian Vascular Flora) = conspectus&gs_l= Zlc.

Distribution: Northern (Scandinavian Peninsula), Central and Atlantic Europe, Mediterranean, Caucasus.

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

Medical plant: no, it is not - Medicinal Plants Act -

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

1. 2. 3.4. 5.


© K.Nanev


© Copy right: K. Nanev© 2012. All rights reserved