Melampyrum arvense, commonly known as field cow-wheat, is an herbaceous flowering plant of the genus Melampyrum in the family Orobanchaceae. It is striking because of the conspicuous spike of pink or purple terminal bracts which includes the flowers.
The upright stems of this species, which may branch, are terminated by a spike of pink to purple bracts amongst which the tubular flowers appear. Younger, lower bracts are green however, as the pink/purple colour appears and deepens only with time. The plant grows up to 40 or 60 cm high.
The ordinary leaves are lanceolate and opposite and may have short teeth. The bracts are also lanceolate and have long teeth up to 8 mm.
The flowers are two-lipped with a closed throat and are 2 – 2.5 cm long. They are pink to purple with a yellow or white patch.
It is distributed throughout Western Europe except in central & southern Spain, southern Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Norway, central and northern Sweden, and northern Finland.
This plant is useful.
This plant might be poisonous
How to get rid of:
Easy to control in the home garden by hand-pulling, cultivation, and the application of mulch. In large, landscaped areas herbicides may also be necessary.
This species is hemiparasitic, commonly on the roots of grasses but also on those of other plants. It cannot flourish without a host from which to take nutrients.