AskDefine | Define toothwort

Dictionary Definition

toothwort n : North American herb with pungent scaly or toothed roots [syn: crinkleroot, crinkle-root, crinkle root, pepper root, Cardamine diphylla, Dentaria diphylla]

Extensive Definition

Toothwort (Lathraea) is a small genus of five to seven species of flowering plants, native to temperate Europe and Asia. They are parasites on the roots of other plants, and are completely lacking chlorophyll. They are classified in the family Orobanchaceae. In addition, Cardamine concatenata is also called toothwort.
Common Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) is parasitic on the roots of hazel and alder, occasionally on beech, in shady places such as hedge sides. It consists of a branched whitish underground stem closely covered with thick, fleshy, colourless leaves, which are bent over so as to hide under the surface; irregular cavities communicating with the exterior are formed in the thickness of the leaf.
The only portions that appear above ground in April to May are the short flower-bearing shoots, which bear a spike of two-lipped dull purple flowers. The scales which represent the leaves also secrete water, which escapes and softens the ground around the plant.
toothwort in Bulgarian: Горска майка
toothwort in Danish: Skælrod
toothwort in French: Lathraea
toothwort in Dutch: Schubwortel
toothwort in Norwegian: Skjellrot
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