Common cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense

Status Green - Least concern
Best Time to See May, June, July, August, September
Colour Yellow
Habitat Woodland, Heathland, Upland

The pretty little pale yellow flowers look rather like they are trying to fly using the two perpendicular leaves as wings.

The flowers appear along the length of the stem always in pairs and accompanied by two leaves.

Common cow-wheat is semi-parasitic as it attaches to the roots of other plants in order to feed.


Grows throughout Britain but is rarer in the East of England.


Can be found growing in woodland, heaths and upland moors

Did you know?

In times gone by it was thought this plant ensured pregnant women would give birth to a boy.

Common cow-wheat is a rarity amongst shady old woodland plants in that it is an annual.

The herb has been used in traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea and externally as pillow filling to treat rheumatism and calcification of blood vessels.

Owing to the fact that the seed of the plant has an elaiosome (fleshy structure) which is attractive to wood ants, the ants disperse the seeds when they take them back to their nests to feed their young. Since the ants rarely carry the seeds more than a few yards, the plant is an indicator of ancient woodland.