Crested Cow-wheat Melampyrum cristatum

Scientific Name: Melampyrum cristatum (Scrophulariaceae).

English Name: Crested Cow-wheat (Figwort family).

French Name: Mélampyre à crêtes (='crested cow-wheat').

5 Key Characters:
  • flowers arranged in a square column.
  • distinctive arching bracts with teeth near the base, tapering to a long point.
  • pinky purple bracts with green tips.
  • yellow tubular flowers with a purple blush.
  • grows about 20-40 cm high.

Lookalikes: Field Cow-wheat M. arvense is the same sort of pinky purple and yellow combination, and grows in similar places, but the flower is much more like a flame than the strange and distinctive somehow reptilian arrangement of Crested Cow-wheat.

Habitat: Woodland and woodland edges, dry pasture, always on calcareous soil. This species is partially parasitic on the surrounding plants.

Flowering Period: May-June-July-August-September.

Status: Very localised but can be abundant.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:


  1. Prettier and more delicate than the Field Cow-wheat!

  2. Tim: Hmm, not sure about that. They are both fairly striking.

  3. Agreed, but the colour is more intense in this and the whole shape is nicer... IMO!