Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, May  2017
   Pedicularis rhinanthoides - by Joan McCaughey

I am always tempted when I receive seed lists to try the seeds of plants that I have seen growing in the wild, although perhaps being over optimistic in expecting plants that grow at over 3000 metres in Sichuan to adapt to Northern Ireland!

There are over 300 varieties of Pedicularis growing in China alone, many of them very attractive, but I had always believed ‘louseworts’ very difficult to cultivate being described as hemiparasitic, the host plant not always obvious. [see ‘Plant of the Month’ June 2006 by Heather Smith]
However a few years ago at the SRCG weekend I bought a small plant simply labelled Pedicularis sp. which I planted in a raised bed and it has reappeared late every spring since producing  rather straggly pink flowers in summer but no seedlings so far. 

So when I saw Pedicularis rhinanthoides listed on Votjech Holubec’s  2015/16 seed list I promptly ordered some seed.

The seed, collected from TienBaoShan, Yunnan, China at 3500 metres,2014, was sown in the usual seed compost at the beginning of January 2016 and I noted that it had germinated but unfortunately not the date or number. This resulted in one plant transferred outside to a raised bed in the summer. 

It survived our mild winter making a compact leafy mound, approx.. 15 -20 cms  across  and stayed in leaf unlike the ‘Scottish’ variety.


Much to my surprise I found it in flower as shown in the photograph on the 25th April this year, with 6 to 7 pink and white flowers several cm high and there are more small pink buds hidden in the foliage. This plant is more compact than I remember it in the wild.
 Whether it will survive or increase over the coming seasons in N. Ireland remains to be seen  - I do hope so as it reminds me of a wonderful botanical holiday spent in Yunnan and Sichuan under the expert guidance of Chris Gardiner. 

Pedicularis rhinanthoides in Sichuan