In wetter areas in northwestern Wyoming lately, I’ve been seeing clusters of little pink elephants everywhere.

Elephant's Head (1)

These unique little flowers are called Elephant’s Head, Pedicularis groenlandica, and are usually considered members of the Scrophulariaceae, or figwort, plant family (though some sources consider them members of Orobanchaceae). Other “Scrophs” are foxgloves, penstemons, and snapdragons.

Remarkably, this particular flower is a root parasite! A fungus on its roots pierces the roots of other nearby plants to draw out nutrients. Turns out there are a variety of interesting parasites in the Jackson Hole area…

Ethnobotanically, Elephant’s Head has been used as a skeletal muscle relaxant.

For more information on this eccentric flower, check out:

Northeast School of Botanical Medicine

Southwest Colorado Wildflowers

Elephant's Head (2)