COMMON COW-WHEAT

Melampyrum pratense

Broomrape Family [Orobanchaceae]  
Formerly in: Figwort & Foxglove Family [Scrophulariaceae]

month8May month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8yellow
morph
morph8zygo
petals
petalsZ1
stem
stem8square

6th July 2007, Colwith Force, Little Langdale. Photo: © RWD


6th July 2007, Colwith Force, Little Langdale, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
The grass-like leaves are well camouflaged by the grass.


1st Aug 2007, Darwen Moor, Darwen, Lancs. Photo: © RWD


1st July 2005, Eskdale Valley. Photo: © RWD


6th July 2007, Colwith Force, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD


6th July 2007, Colwith Force, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The flowers always grow in pairs, much like does Skullcap.


6th July 2007, Colwith Force, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD


6th July 2007, Colwith Force, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD


Slight resemblance to :Skullcap, but Common Cow-Wheat is yellow not blue. The flowers themselves have some semblance to other hemi-parasitic plants such as Yellow Rattle (Rhianthus minor), but that is shorter and the flowers all yellow.

The flowers of Common Cow-wheat are usually pale-yellow and not rich yellow as most (all?) of the above photos show. This is because Common Cow-wheat occurs as either of two sub-species:

  • Common Cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense ssp. pratense) which are rich-yellow and grow on acidic soils in the North (but also some in the South). The leaves below the bracts are 7 to 15 times longer than wide [length 2-8cm (max 1 to 11 cm) long and 2-10mm (max 1-20mm) wide]. It is by far the most common of the two. The above photos are of this sub-species, unless otherwise labelled.
  • Common Cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense ssp. commutatum) which are pale-yellow and grow on alkaline calcareous soils mainly in the South. The leaves below the bracts are mostly only 3-8 times longer than wide [length 4-7cm (max 3-10 cm) long and 8-20mm wide ) outliers 4-27mm wide]. This sub-species is a rare [RR].

This is a  Hemi-parasitic plant, meaning that it relies on obtaining some of its' nutrients from the roots of nearby plants.

The leaves are hard to see blending in well with the grass it grows so well amongst. The yellow flowers always grow in pairs up the stem. The first pair to emerge being at the top of the (square) stem.

The sepal teeth are very long and have brownish markings.

The seeds contain high concentrations of the toxic glycosidic compound Rhinanthin (aka Aucubin) to deter animals from consuming them. Presumably the same compound is also found in Rhinanthus species such as Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) which are also hemi-parasitic plants.


  Melampyrum pratense  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Orobanchaceae  

Distribution
family8Broomrape family8Orobanchaceaeae

 BSBI maps
genus8Melampyrum
Melampyrum
(Cow-wheats)

COMMON COW-WHEAT

Melampyrum pratense

Broomrape Family [Orobanchaceae]  
Formerly in: Figwort & Foxglove Family [Scrophulariaceae]

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