The Fascinating World of Toothwort: A Closer Look at this Mysterious Plant


Toothwort, also known as lathraea, is a fascinating plant that grows in shady habitats around the world. It is a semi-parasite, meaning it gets some of its nutrients by attaching to the roots of other plants.

One of the distinguishing features of toothwort is its unique flowers. They are small and range in color from white to pink, adding a pleasant touch to the landscape during the flowering season. The leaves of toothwort are broad and stalked, sometimes resembling those of the cutleaf toothwort and the forkleaf toothwort.

Toothwort is also edible, although it is not commonly consumed. In some regions, the young leaves and flowers are used in salads or cooked as greens. However, it is important to note that toothwort should not be confused with the related orobanche species, which are known to be completely parasitic and can harm their host plants.

In addition to its role in the ecosystem as a semi-parasite, toothwort also plays a part in the restoration and conservation of habitats. It is often found in nurseries that work on ecological restoration projects, as it helps to establish a healthy plant community. The British book “Restoration Ecology” gave detailed information about toothwort and its importance in these projects.

Toothwort can be found in various regions. In the southern parts of the United States, it is more likely to be found in woodlands, while in more northern areas, it is observed in open meadows. In our native land of Sakatah, toothwort can be found among other plants, parasitizing their roots for survival.

In conclusion, toothwort is an intriguing plant that adds beauty and interest to its habitat. With its semi-parasitic nature, unique flowers, and edible leaves, toothwort deserves more attention and study. So the next time you come across toothwort, take a moment to appreciate its intricate workings and the important role it plays in the ecosystem.

Plant of the week – 31st August – Toothwort Lathraea squamaria

The Toothwort Lathraea squamaria is our plant of the week for August 31st. This unique and intriguing plant, often referred to as toothwort or Lathraea squamaria, belongs to the Orobanchaceae family. It is a semi-parasite that attaches itself to the roots of other plants, mainly trees, and gets its nutrition and water from their host plants.

One of the most distinguishing features of toothwort is its lack of leaves. Instead, it has small, scale-like structures called squamules, which give it a unique texture. These squamules often have a spotted or mottled appearance, adding to the plant’s overall appeal.

Toothwort is mostly observed in shaded or semi-shaded areas, where it can find suitable hosts to attach itself to. The plant has a preferred season and can be seen in bloom from August to September. During this time, it produces beautiful pink or purplish flowers that open up like a forkleaf.

While the flowers of toothwort are quite pleasant to look at, they also serve a purpose. They attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, which aid in the plant’s reproduction.

Toothwort has a wide range and can be found in various states, particularly in the south. It is often known for its use in restoration work, as it can help improve the biodiversity of an area by providing habitat and food sources for other organisms.

If you come across toothwort in the field or while exploring a forest, please take a moment to appreciate its unique features. A plant like toothwort often goes unnoticed, but its presence adds to the richness of our natural surroundings.

In conclusion, toothwort Lathraea squamaria is a fascinating plant with its unusual appearance and semi-parasitic nature. Its squamules, lack of leaves, and beautiful flowers make it stand out in the plant kingdom. Next time you are out in nature, keep an eye out for toothwort and take a moment to observe its unique features.


Toothwort, also known as Cardamine diphylla, is a native British plant that can be found within shaded woodland areas. Its leaves, which are mostly observed in early spring, are detailed and have four lobes. The flowers of the Toothwort plant are white or pinkish in color and can be seen from March to April. The plant itself is a parasitic plant, often found on the roots of other plants such as lathraea and Dentaria. It is often observed parasitizing fruit trees, completely covering their roots and causing damage.

When the Toothwort flowers, it attracts insects and provides food for pollinators. The plant gets its name from the shape of its underground stem, which resembles a tooth. Within the woodland floor, Toothwort can be spotted among other plants like bloodroot and Cut-leaved toothwort. It is most likely to be found in shaded areas, where it thrives best.

In terms of landscaping and restoration, Toothwort is not a common choice due to its parasitic nature and potential damage to other plants. However, some may find its unique characteristics and detailed leaves appealing. More information about Toothwort can be found in a book called “Toothwort: A Detailed Study” by John Smith.

For those interested in foraging, the leaves of Toothwort can be cooked and eaten. They are said to have a mild flavor and can be used in various dishes. However, it is important to be cautious and ensure that the plant is identified correctly before consuming.

In conclusion, Toothwort is a unique native British plant that is often overlooked. Its parasitic nature and detailed leaves make it an interesting plant to observe in its natural habitat. Whether you are a plant enthusiast or simply enjoy exploring nature, Toothwort is definitely worth a visit.

Plant of the Week

This week’s featured plant is the Toothwort, known scientifically as Lathraea squamaria. Toothwort, also known as orobanche or squat laurel, is a flowering plant that is native to Europe. It is likely that you have actually seen toothwort before, as it is often found in shaded areas under deciduous trees.

The distinguishing feature of toothwort is its parasitic nature. It attaches its roots to the roots of trees and obtains its nutrients from them. Thanks to this semi-parasitic behavior, toothwort doesn’t have green leaves like most other plants. Instead, it relies on photosynthesis from its purple flowers.

Toothwort is a pretty plant to look at, especially when it is in bloom. The flowers are purple and give off a faint, sweet scent. The plant can grow to a height of 30cm. The fruit of toothwort is actually edible, and some people compare its taste to that of bloodroot. However, it is important to note that toothwort is a protected plant in some states and should not be harvested without permission.

If you are interested in learning more about toothwort, or if you want to see it in its natural habitat, you can visit nurseries or restoration sites in your area. Some books and websites also provide more information on toothwort and its features.

Toothwort Toothwort

Overall, toothwort is a fascinating plant with unique characteristics. Its parasitic nature and lack of green leaves make it stand out among other plants. If you ever come across a toothwort plant, take a moment to admire its beautiful flowers and learn more about its interesting biology.

For more information and photos of toothwort and other plants, visit our sponsors’ websites. They have a wealth of information on native plants and can help you identify the toothwort plant you have observed.

Cut-leaved Toothwort Cardamine concatenata

Cut-leaved Toothwort Cardamine concatenata, also known as Dentaria diphylla, is a native semi-parasitic plant that is found in North America. It is classified under the family Brassicaceae and is closely related to other toothwort species, such as toothwort Cardamine nuttallii and toothwort Cardamine maxima.

The distinguishing feature of the Cut-leaved Toothwort Cardamine concatenata is its broad, deeply cut leaves, which resemble a toothed shape. The leaves are typically green in color and have lobes that appear around the central stem. The plants often grow in shaded woodland habitats and can be found flowering from April to August.

In terms of its uses, the Cut-leaved Toothwort Cardamine concatenata is not commonly consumed as a food source, unlike other toothwort species such as Cardamine diphylla. However, there have been historical references to the plant being cooked and eaten. Its leaves have a pleasant texture and flavor, and some people may find them edible.

As a semi-parasite, the Cut-leaved Toothwort Cardamine concatenata obtains nutrients by attaching its roots to the roots of other plants, usually woody hosts such as bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) or stone root (Collinsonia canadensis). The plant gets its nutrients from the host plant, while still producing its own food through photosynthesis.

When it comes to landscaping, the Cut-leaved Toothwort Cardamine concatenata is not commonly grown in nurseries or available for purchase as a cultivated plant. However, it is sometimes observed in native plant restoration projects or natural areas. Its large toothed leaves and unique flowering features make it an attractive addition to woodland gardens or shaded areas.

In conclusion, the Cut-leaved Toothwort Cardamine concatenata is a native plant with broad toothed leaves and attractive flowering features. Although it is not widely consumed, some historical references suggest that it has been cooked and eaten. Its semi-parasitic nature and unique appearance make it an interesting plant to observe in natural habitats and restoration projects.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.