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Lathraea clandestina

hidden toothwort

Also known as Purple Toothwort, this is a leafless, harmless, parasitic plant, mainly feeding off hosts such as Willow, Poplar, Hazel and Alder but also ferns, herbs and other trees. For most of the year it is invisible, but from April to June, glossy, mainly dark, violet-purple, sometimes paler, crocus-like flowers appear. The seeds are ejected explosively allowing the plant to spread up to 8 metres. For further information, go to the RHS podcast at https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/articles/wisley/wisley-plant-encounters/lathraea

Other common names
purple toothwort
Synonyms
Clandestina rectiflora

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Size
Ultimate height
Up to 10cm
Time to ultimate height
2–5 years
Ultimate spread
4–8 metres
Growing conditions
Chalk
Clay
Loam
Sand
Moisture
Moist but well–drained
pH
Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Colour & scent
StemFlowerFoliageFruit
Spring Purple White
Summer
Autumn
Winter
Position
  • Full shade
  • Full sun
  • Partial shade
Aspect

East–facing or North–facing or South–facing or West–facing

Exposure
Exposed or Sheltered
Hardiness
H7
Botanical details
Family
Orobanchaceae
Native to the UK
No
Habit
Matforming
Name status

Correct

Plant range
W Europe

How to grow

Cultivation

Dig a wide hole next to the base of the host tree/plant (preferable Willow, Hazel, Alder or Poplar) and make a wound in the base of the host stem or trunk. Press the Lathraea next to this. Cover with soil, firm in and keep watered. It may take two seasons before there is any sign of growth, and due to the wide spread of the roots, the flowers may come up some distance from where they were planted

Propagation

Propagate by seed or root

Suggested planting locations and garden types
  • Cottage and informal garden
  • Ground cover
Pruning

No pruning required

Pests

Generally pest-free

Diseases

Generally disease-free

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