In Bloom: Lousewort

Anne Holmes, artist

The genus name of this herbaceous plant, from the Latin pediculus (a louse), and its common name, Lousewort, refer to the misconception once held by farmers that cattle and sheep become infested with lice when grazing on it. Its other common name, wood betony, is better suited to this attractive plant.

The flower colors and the finely cut foliage are distinctive. Tubular, two-lipped flowers—all red, all yellow, or yellow and red—look like pinwheels when viewed from above. Flowers bloom from the bottom up and last about three weeks. Its leaves are fern-like and can grow to six inches by two inches. The main stem is densely hairy and grows to one foot tall. Considered a semi-parasitic plant, it gets some of its nourishment from the roots of other plants. Site this plant in average to medium well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Lousewort will naturalize into colonies by self-seeding.

Native Americans used the leaves collected early in the season in soups or as a spinach-like green. Chopped roots were added to the feed they gave their horses to fatten them up. The root was also considered a love charm.

The Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Visit ashevillebotanicalgardens.org for membership and general information, a guide to what is blooming and gift shop hours.

 Upcoming Events

Annual Spring Plant Sale
Friday, May 4, 12–6 p.m. and Saturday, May 5, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Botanical Gardens and numerous local plant vendors will offer a wide variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. Botanical Gardens at Asheville (BGA) members will get a 10% discount on BGA-grown plants sold at the gazebo. As always, this event will take place rain or shine. Free admission and parking on-site or nearby.

Spring Bird Walk
Sunday, May 13 from 8–10 a.m. Join us for an easy, early morning bird walk in the Gardens, led by Aaron Steed, expert birder and ornithologist. As we look for, listen to and enjoy the spring birds, we’ll learn to recognize their songs and calls. Field guides are helpful, but not required. Bring your binoculars.

Educational programs are $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for classes by calling 828.252.5190

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