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Pedicularis groenlandica (Elephanthead lousewort)
Beckers, Eric

Pedicularis groenlandica

Pedicularis groenlandica Retz.

Elephanthead Lousewort

Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)

Synonym(s): Elephantella groenlandica, Pedicularis groenlandica ssp. surrecta, Pedicularis groenlandica var. surrecta

USDA Symbol: PEGR2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N), GL (N)

Shortly after snow melt, purplish, fern-like leaves come up through the grasses and sedges on whose roots this plant is parasitic. A little later, spikes to 24 in. carry showy clusters of pink-purple flowers. The individual flowers resemble an elephant’s face - the upper petals twisted and curled into a long "snout." Dense racemes of flowers that are perfect little pink elephant heads (ears, trunk, and all) bloom on leafy stems.

The flower’s charming structure facilitates pollination while at the same time reducing the chances of hybridization with other species. Little Elephant Heads (P. attollens), only to 16" (40 cm) tall, has a corolla marked with white and rose, and head proportions are not so perfectly elephantine - the "trunk," raised as if trumpeting, is only as long as the lower lip. It grows from the Cascade Mountains of Oregon to the Sierra Nevada in California.


From the Image Gallery

30 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 2 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink , Purple
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep
Bloom Notes: Rarely white.


USA: AK , AZ , CA , CO , ID , MT , NM , NV , OR , UT , WA , WY
Canada: AB , BC , ON , SK
Native Distribution: Canada & AK, s. in U.S. through mts. to NM, AZ & CA
Native Habitat: Cool, moist, mt. meadows; 6000-11,000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist, especially early, soils.


Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Description: Sow seeds near host plants in fall.
Seed Treatment: Seeds require a damp stratification of 40 degrees for 2-3 months.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1993 VOL. 10, NO.3 - Miss Helen Hayes Memorial, Director's Report, Monarda Medicinal Mints of Distinc...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Pedicularis groenlandica in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Pedicularis groenlandica in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Pedicularis groenlandica


Record Modified: 2023-02-22
Research By: TWC Staff

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