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An annual plant with impressive inflorescences. Field cow-wheat is a hemiparasite that inhibits the excessive growth of expansive perennials, thanks to which other species of dicotyledons will be present in the flower meadow longer. The flowers of the field cow-wheat are rich in nectar. Wild, non-cultivar seeds.
Polish name: pink wheat-weed
Latin name: Melampyrum arvense L.
Family: the broomrapes Orobanchaceae, former the figwort family Scrophulariaceae
Status in Poland: native, common on the southern highlands of Poland, and in the warmest parts of the valleys of the largest rivers on the north, on Mazovia, Podlachia, Masuria, the north of the Lublin Voivodeship unaffectedly rare (in a few locations with alkaline soils, and with a very warm microclimate, especially in the valleys of the Bug, and Vistula rivers).
A low annual plant, hemiparasite of the roots, one of the most beautiful representatives of the genus Melampyrum. Root system not too deep, composed of narrow, almost unbranched roots with special structures (haustoria) growing deeply into the roots and rhizomes of the host species, mainly grasses.
Stems erect, branching strongly, and foliaged opposite.
It develops trophophilic leaves, necessary for photosynthesis and respiration, and bracts, which protect flowers and attract pollinators to the inflorescence. The trophophilic leaves are characterized by the absence of petioles and entire-margined, lanceolate blades. The pinnatifid bracts are quite imposing for a cow-wheat and brightly colored, taking on various shades of raspberry and beetroot pink, or shades of lilac purple, which are already visible from a distance.
Single flowers are characterized by a motphology typical of the genus, i.e. they will be bisexual, strongly pectinate, divided into a calyx and a corolla. They form all summer long.
The corolla is 20-25 mm long, yellow, but with red labias, and a red coating on the tube. The corolla inside is almost closed as its lower labium curves upward and bases on the helmet-shaped upper labium. The calyx is characterized by a quadruple symmetry, and strong ciliate as long as the crown.
The fruit is a flat capsule containing seeds with elaiosomes.
Field cow-wheat needs very sunny and warm places. It prefers permeable and calcareous soils. It tolerates drought well.
It will not grow in shaded and flooded places.
The increasing popularity of urban flower meadows and field margins in orchards and along highways have significantly contributed to the cultivation of field cow-wheat, and the intensification of research on wild populations of this plant. Like all hemiparasites of the broomrapes family, it inhibits the excessive growth of expansive perennials, especially legumes and grasses. Due to this, other beautiful species of dicotyledons will be present in the flower meadow longer.
The former botanists did not like research on cow-wheats because these plants were difficult to mark and store. Their parasitic way of life and more specifically the extraordinary tempo of transpiration made it difficult to prepare herbarium specimens. After collecting, they instantly blackened and deformed, making it impossible to document the works.
Field cow-wheat provides plenty of nectar for insects, not only from flowers, but also from out-of-the-flower nectaries. The only real and effective pollinators of its flowers are bumblebees. After flowering, the out-of-the-flower nectar attracts the ants to spread its seeds to good germination locations. Honeybees and solitary bees can also drink out-of-the-flower nectar or come into flowers, but without causing them pollinated thus developing seeds.