Purple Toothwort Lathraea clandestina

Scientific Name: Lathraea clandestina (Orobanchaceae). Lathraea='hidden'.

English Name: Purple Toothwort (Broomrape family).

French Name: La Lathrée clandestine.

5 Key Characters:
  • parasitic on tree roots.
  • seed capsules explosive.
  • found in damp places.
  • nectar very alkaline and tastes unpleasantly of ammonia.
  • has no chlorophyll and the fleshy scale like leaves are cream.

Lookalikes: Beginners might mistake it for spring flowering purple crocuses, but there is only a very superficial similarity (low growing, purple flowers en masse).

Habitat: A root parasite mainly of Poplar Populus spp and Willow Salix spp, but also Japanese Maple Acer spp, Alder Alnus spp, Box Buxus spp, Hornbeam Carpinus spp, Hazel Corylus spp, Walnut Juglans spp, Redwood Metasequoia spp, Rhododendron Rhododendron spp, Yew Taxus spp and Giant Rhubarb Gunnera spp. Grows in damp partial shade, often by streams, in similar places as the much more common Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria.

Flowering Period: March-April-May. Pollinated by bumble bees.

Status: Locally common and conspicuous in riverside woodland.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

Growing on Poplar Populus sp roots on the banks of the Aigronne River.

The white fleshy scale like leaves.

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