Marsh lousewort or red-rattle is a widespread hemiparasitic herb (3). The stems and leaves are smooth, or have a few sparse hairs. The stem branches close to the base, and bears roughly triangular-shaped leaves with toothed lobes. The flowers are reddish-pink and the upper lip has a small tooth on each side (2). The name ‘red-rattle’ refers to both the colour of the flowers and the seed pods, which rattle when the seeds inside become ripe (4).
Although it does contain the green pigment chlorophyll and photosynthesizes, marsh lousewort also obtains some nutrients by feeding on the roots of a host plant (3). It is therefore dubbed a ‘hemiparasite’ (3). It grows as either an annual or a biennial(3). The flowers are pollinated by various bumble-bees, which are attracted to the flowers by the nectar (2).
This plant is fairly common in much of Britain, and it has a wide distribution, reaching altitudes of up to 855 metres (2) . It has undergone a substantial decline in central and southern England (3). Elsewhere it is found in mainland Europe as far south as the Pyrenees. It also occurs in the Caucasus region (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) (2).
A plant that lives for two years and typically flowers only in the second year.
A group of green pigments found in photosynthetic organisms (photosynthesis is a metabolic process characteristic of plants in which carbon dioxide is reduced, using energy absorbed by the green pigment chlorophyll. Organic compounds are made and oxygen is given off as a by-product).
Plant that obtains some nutrition from a host plant, but is able to survive independently as it possesses the pigment chlorophyll and a root system.
Metabolic process characteristic of plants in which carbon dioxide is broken down, using energy from sunlight absorbed by the green pigment chlorophyll. Organic compounds are made and oxygen is given off as a by-product.
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