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jardin-perdu / Lathraea clandestina: Purple Toothwort
Lathraea clandestina Purple Toothwort

Lathraea clandestina: Purple Toothwort

French name: Lathrée clandestine, La Clandestine.

Whilst out walking at the weekend here in La Corrèze, I was thrilled to find several clumps of Purple Toothwort in a small wood, close to a stream.

Lathraea clandestina Purple Toothwort Lathraea clandestina is a perennial root parasitic plant which usually uses willows, poplars and alders as its host though it has also been found on a number of other trees and shrubs including maples, yew and rhododendrons. Being parasitic Lathraea clandestina relies on food produced by other plants to survive.

In spring a clump of gorgeous purple, hooded flowers appear just above the soil, often at quite a distance from its actual host. As Purple Toothwort completely lacks chlorophyll the plant does not have any leaves and vanishes from view as soon as it has dispersed its seeds.

In recent years it has become a popular addition to woodland gardens and I can see why as I thought it was beautiful.

Lathraea clandestina Purple ToothwortIt is found in the wild in Central and Western France. Keep an eye out for it now as it won’t be around for many weeks and I’d love to know if you have come across any, so please leave your comments in the box below.

A bientôt
Katherine x

'Lathraea clandestina: Purple Toothwort' have 29 comments

  1. April 24, 2013 @ 8:04 pm Roger Brook

    I remember large drifts of Lathraea at Alan Mason’s manoire at Porte de Roche about 25 years ago. (At that time Alan, a former student of mine made a series of TV programmes about french gardens) It was this time of the year when I was there and the plant made a magnificent carpet under the willows and poplars-happy memories!


  2. April 28, 2013 @ 5:38 pm Pam

    Hello Katharine,

    We found this plant today near our home just over the border in Creuse, and we have you to thank for solving the mystery for us of what it is! A truly amazing looking plant. We looked with interest at your garden plans as we’re doing similar things here.

    Kind regards
    Pam and Nick Dowson


    • April 29, 2013 @ 6:43 am Katherine

      That’s wonderful, I’m so glad that my blog helped out. Good luck with your garden plans, I’m sure like us you’ve got plenty of work on your hands!


  3. May 12, 2013 @ 6:13 pm Michele Hansford

    This seems to be around here in the Deux Sèvrres quite a lot. It has taken me a while to identify, so thank you!


  4. May 25, 2013 @ 7:34 pm Sue Cooper

    Hello Katharine

    I always wondered what this beautiful plant was. We have lots in our woodland garden in the Vendee. I adore the colour. Thanks for the info.


  5. May 28, 2013 @ 3:29 pm Wendy Wythe

    Have found these in our garden in Creuse (near La Celle Dunoise) and have been trying to identify them.
    Mystery solved….thank you!


  6. June 3, 2013 @ 7:51 am martine

    these flowers grow also in my garden! I was aware of them for years but recently someone told me its name and I’m quite proud of it! It grows close to a small river central Belgium (Brabant Wallon) and the soil is often quite dampy.


  7. January 25, 2014 @ 11:43 pm Tom Spencer

    Hi Katherine.
    I saw this for the first time at Wisley last week and since then I’ve been looking for seeds. Can’t find a supplier anywhere!
    We’ve got some great mature willows next to the stream in a woodland area of our garden so I think we’d be in with a chance of a successful cultivation, even if it took a few years to flower!
    Have you any idea where I might source seeds to get the ball rolling?
    Thanks. Tom


    • January 27, 2014 @ 2:31 pm Katherine

      Hi Tom

      They’re absolutely lovely. http://www.avonbulbs.co.uk/s/lathraea-clandestina/1115/Product.aspx – is the only place I’ve come across selling the plant, but if you find anywhere else please let me know as I’d love some too! Katherine


      • February 26, 2014 @ 6:54 pm Tom Spencer

        I’m going to France in July so I’ll see if I can find any seeds. Long shot but if I do I’ll get some for you.


        • March 3, 2014 @ 3:29 pm Katherine

          Wonderful Tom – I’ll keep my eyes peeled too and pick some up for you if I find any


  8. March 3, 2014 @ 4:53 pm James

    thanks for helping me identify this. I found a clump at the base of an old willow I’ve pollarded in our garden in Lot et Garonne about a fortnight ago.


    • March 4, 2014 @ 10:06 am Katherine

      Lucky you 🙂 I think they’re a lovely plant


  9. March 14, 2014 @ 8:22 am Bryony


    We live in Deux Sevres, France, and have a lot of these in our fields, ad you say under the trees. They are such a beautiful colour. We didn’t know what they were, someone kindly gave us your website.


  10. March 29, 2014 @ 5:10 pm Peter Gauntlett

    I found lots of these alongside a stream at St Beauzeil (82150) this week. Superb plants.


  11. March 30, 2014 @ 12:10 pm Grete

    While walking near home in the Gers last Friday I came across patches of this plant on a river bank. Thanks to a friend in the Netherlands who has been able to identify it I now know where to find Lathrea clandestina. An amazing plant!


  12. April 16, 2014 @ 10:06 am Roger Chant

    I have a small piece of land in Deux Sevres France that has a lake, a stream, an orchard and willows and plaine trees and around this time of year the Purple Toothwort makes a fantastic appearance making a wonderful show.


  13. April 16, 2014 @ 12:23 pm Marian

    We have these beautiful flowers in our garden in the Indre (36) region of France. I photographed some of them just last week.


  14. May 9, 2014 @ 8:16 am Tom Spencer

    Hi Katherine.
    I’ve just had notification from Avon Bulbs that they have Purple Toothwort bulbs in stock, so if anyone on the forum is interested they should follow the link below.


    Only place I’ve found them!


    • May 9, 2014 @ 2:57 pm Katherine

      Hi Tom.
      Brilliant and thanks for letting me know. I’ll put a post on twitter and facebook too. Katherine x


  15. April 2, 2015 @ 2:41 pm Phoebe @ Lou Messugo

    I’ve never seen this plant before but as I live in the south east perhaps that’s not so surprising. Thanks for linking up with #AllAboutFrance


  16. April 3, 2015 @ 5:33 am Betty Carlson

    I came over here from #AllAboutFrance — you have a gorgeous blog. Unfortunately, I am no garderner but it makes me want to be one! I live in Aveyron and am very fond of Corrèze — we have some good friends who live between Collonges and Turenne and have enjoyed many short stays there.


  17. April 3, 2015 @ 5:00 pm Rosemary K

    HI, they are beautiful. I’ve never seen them but I shall start keeping an eye out. My first early purple orchid for the season is in flower!


  18. April 3, 2015 @ 7:02 pm BacktoBurgundy

    I too found this via #allaboutfrance linky. As you’ll see from my blog, I know very little about gardening or identifying flowers but hope to do so and your blog will definitely help – in fact the photo underneath of the red dead-nettle has already allowed me to identify that. Many thanks. I will return!


  19. April 11, 2015 @ 5:59 am Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault

    I have seen other toothworts but never this one – what a beautiful plant. #AllAboutFrance


  20. March 29, 2016 @ 2:43 pm Daisy

    We have swathes of this in the woods which follow the bank of the river in Hautes Pyrenees – 65


    • March 29, 2016 @ 3:08 pm Katherine

      Thank you for posting and how lovely. I’ve not seen any here yet this year, but I can’t wait until they appear, they’re one of my absolute favourite wildflowers 🙂


  21. April 11, 2016 @ 5:14 pm Alison Cawley

    I’m so pleased to have found this page! I was Googling to try to identify this strange flower. We saw clumps of it on the banks of the Canal du Midi at Seuil de Narouze today, then found more at Serres sur Arget in the Ariège. Thank you for solving my problem. It’s a beautiful plant.


    • April 12, 2016 @ 2:26 pm Katherine

      It’s one of my favourites too 🙂 So glad my blog helped x


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