Lathraea clandestina   Purple Toothwort I

Lathraea clandestina whole Lathraea clandestina flower

This introduction from South West Europe is, like the native Lathraea squamaria (Toothwort), a perennial root parasitic plant and so needs no chlorophyll to make complex sugars. For all that explanation it still looks like a plant from Mars. It is usually found under Salix (Willows) or Populus (Poplars) species in damp places and true enough this substantial colony was under a hedge on the far side of a small stream under some large old Willows. It wasn't too far from habitation where it surely originated many years ago.

Introductions can become widespread quickly in the UK or remain dotted about and this one is mostly found in Southern English Counties, rarely in Wales or Ireland and not often in Scotland apart from a good group round Edinburgh. There were several patches of L. clandestina at this Wirral site which is part of the Cheshire Vice County for botanical recording but much to the residents' annoyance, part of Merseyside for administrative purposes.

Lathraea clandestina has escaped successfully all over England without ever being prolific. There are a few sites in Wales, southern Scotland and a very few in Ireland.

Irby, Wirral, Merseyside 25th April 2006

Added on 25th April 2006, modified 12th January 2007, updated 19th March 2010, updated 16th Nov 2014