Pedicularis canadensis is an uncommon plant found throughout Illinois that is more frequently found in the northern half of the state. Growing low to the ground in clumping rosettes, the plant grows no taller than a foot in height. Wood Betony can be found in varied habitats from open prairie to woodland clearings where sun shines through and can tolerate sandy soil in addition to rich black soil of the prairie. The flowers being quite unique, this plant attracts native pollinators such as mason bees and bumblebees and is one of the more unique displays of inflorescence on the prairie.
One of the serious issues faced by a short plant in a tallgrass prairie is competition from the surrounding tallgrass keystone species, such as Big Bluestem or Indian Grass. Wood Betony has found an unusual solution in that it is hemiparasitic; attaching its roots to adjacent grasses to steal nutrients for its own use (despite producing its own chlorophyll for photosynthesis anyway), the surrounding vegetation is frequently shorter in stature than its neighbors as a result.
Pedicularis canadensis has seen many uses over the years, from medicinal infusions, ingredients in cooking and animal feed, and was once even believed to keep pests away from livestock (hence the common name “Lousewort”).