Small cow-wheat Melampyrum sylvaticum

Small cow-wheat is a flowering plant that prefers to grow in light shade and high humidity. It can be found in greatest numbers in woodland by lakes. It also grows in birch woodlands, stream valleys, on banks and in hollows. Its large seeds do not disperse very far and are susceptible to predation. The decline in numbers of this plant have been attributed to afforestation, application of fertiliser at woodland edges, grazing and trampling by livestock.


This plant has narrow, bright green leaves, sometimes with a hint of red or purple. The deep-yellow flowers are short, broad and have a drooping lower lip. They can be seen part-way down the stem.


  • Plant height: 5-18cm


Nationally scarce, UKBAP priority species.


Rare – all known populations are in Scotland.

When to see

June – August


  • Small cow-wheat is a hemiparasitic plant, which means it can take nutrients from other plants. It is partially parasitic on a large variety of plants, but can also obtain nutrients from its own root system and photosynthesis.

Common name

Small cow-wheat

Species name

Melampyrum sylvaticum

IUCN Red List status


When to see in Scotland

June – August

Where to see in Scotland

Highland areas such as the Cairngorms National Park.

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