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   The genus name, "Pedicularis", given by Linnaeus in 1753, is derived from the Latin "pediculus", "louse".  A bygone belief had it that the plant gave lice to people and cattle.  Or, according to some sources, the plant was thought to cure people or cattle of lice!  "Wort" is from the Old English, "wyrt", meaning "plant" (Figwort, Spiderwort, Spleenwort).  Many members of the Pedicularis genus are also commonly called "Wood Betony".

To yellow Pedicularis    To Pedicularis groenlandica    To Pedicularis centranthera

Pedicularis racemosa
Pedicularis racemosa subspecies alba (Parrot’s Beak)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Colorado Trail, June 15, 2005.

Pedicularis racemosa is a very showy and abundant plant: the base of Spruce trees is often surrounded by scores of plants with hundreds of flowers.  Flowers are clustered, white, and beaked, the beak leading to the common names of "Parrot's Beak" and "Sickle-Top". 

"Racemosa" is from the Latin for "cluster" and is commonly used botanically to describe the form of an inflorescence in which the flowers are attached by a pedicel to an elongated flowering stem.

Pedicularis racemosa
Pedicularis racemosa subspecies alba (Parrot’s Beak)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Upper Calico Trail, July 12, 2004.

David Douglas (of Douglas fir fame) collected this plant in the early 1830's "on the summit of the high mountains of the Grand Rapids of the Columbia [River]" (as quoted in Intermountain Flora). Douglas named the plant Pedicularis racemosa, and this name and the description of the plant were published in William Jackson Hooker's Flora Boreali-Americana in 1838. (Click the title to read.)

Pedicularis racemosa
Pedicularis racemosa subspecies alba (Parrot’s Beak)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, July 2, 2004.

Parrot’s Beak is easy to identify - even well before its flowers appear: the plants have numerous stems leaning outward in an arching bouquet of maroon.  There are commonly dozens of these bouquets in the same area.  The narrow and tapering, slightly serrated maroon leaves gradually change to green as chlorophyll is produced.

The green fern-like leaves in the lower right of the photograph are not those of Pedicularis racemosa.  They belong to a close cousin, Pedicularis bracteosa, which can be seen nearly ready to bloom at the far left and top right of the photograph.

Pedicularis racemosa
Pedicularis racemosa subspecies alba (Parrot’s Beak)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Upper Calico Trail, July 21, 2005.

Thousands of Pedicularis racemosa flowers whiten
a subalpine Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii) woods.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Pedicularis racemosa