Guide to Parasitic Grassland Plants of the UK | BBC Countryfile Magazine
Parasitic plants make up about 1% of all plant species. Many, like these prairie plants, are partial or semi-parasitic; this means they still photosynthesise to make sugar, but tap into their host’s roots for water and nutrients. Essentially, they rely on the investment their hosts have made in developing an extensive root system. Hemi-parasites can grow without a host but, in low fertility soils where nutrients are harder to find, they will grow more vigorously with just one.
Watch out for the following parasitic plants on your spring walks.
A field guide to parasitic plants in UK grassland
Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)
Rhinanthus minor. Yellow rattle. Cockscomb/Credit: Getty
Blooms from May to August in UK grasslands and has distinctive seed packets that vibrate when dry.
Red Bartsia (Vernus odontitis)
Slender spikes of purple-tinged flowers appear from June to September in grassy, hilly locations across the UK.
Yellow Bartsia (Parentucellia viscosa)
Produces sticky yellow flower spikes (below) in heather and grassy borders from June to October in the West of the UK.
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Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica)
Produces low growing two-lipped pink flowers from April to July on wet moorland and rugged grassland across much of the UK.
Eyebright (Euphrasia nemorosa)
Grows in UK grasslands and the tiny black-veined flowers with a yellow spot appear from May to September.
Lousewort (Lousewort palustris)
Similar to lousewort but prefers wetter grassland, flowering between May and September in the north and west of the UK.
Soft wheat (Melampyrum pratense)
Grows on heather and in grassland and scrubby woodland across the UK, with yellow tubular flowers (below) appearing from May to September.