Red bartsia (Odontites vernus) is an unobtrusive wildflower that I have tended to overlook until now but it’s very common in Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, one of my local haunts, so I thought I should take a closer look at it.
The Wildlife Trust website says Red bartsia can be found growing on low-fertility soils – places like waste ground, brownfield sites, along the edges of roads and railway tracks, and it survives in these more barren places because it’s semi-parasitic on the plants around it, tapping in to their root systems to gather extra nutrients.
Its scientific name is interesting: Odontites comes from Ancient Greek ὀδούς meaning tooth and apparently refers to the fact that Pliny the Elder used this plant to treat toothache; vernus refers to springtime, presumably when this plant comes to life for the year. It flowers for several months over the summer, providing a good nectar source for many species of bee and wasp.
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