Canadian lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis, Scrophulariaceae/Orobanchaceae) inhabits woodlands and clearings through much of eastern North America. This perennial features large whorls of tubular, two-lipped flowers.
Flowers appear in April and May and can be predominantly red or yellow. Individuals exhibiting either color can be found growing side-by-side.
Pollinated primarily by bees, these flowers have an interesting structure that helps them spread their pollen. As a bee enters a flower to reach the nectar, its back rubs against a projection on the upper lip of the flower. The result is that the bee has its back dusted with pollen, and then transfers that pollen to the next flower.
The leaves of this plant are hairy and deeply-lobed, giving it a rather distinct fern-like appearance. Although the leaves are green and perform photosynthesis, this plant is hemiparasitic. Its own roots attach themselves to the roots of other plants, stealing some nutrients that help it thrive in less-than-ideal conditions.
The peculiar name “lousewort” comes from an old belief among farmers that livestock would become infested with lice if they ate this plant.