Odontites vernus (Red Bartsia)

Plant Info
Also known as: Red Rattle, Late-flowering Eyebright
Family:Orobanchaceae (Broomrape)
Life cycle:annual
Origin:Europe, Asia
  • Weedy
Habitat:sun; disturbed soil; lawns, roadsides, waste places, fields
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:6 to 15 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flower cluster] Spike-like raceme of short-stalked flowers at the top of the plant and tips of branching stems, elongating with age, the flowers blooming from the bottom up. The raceme is often nodding and flowers may be arranged oppositely, alternately, or along only one side of the stem.

[photo of calyx and bract] Flowers are about 3/8 inch long, pink to purplish, tubular with 2 lips, the lower lip 3-lobed. The 4 yellow-tipped stamens and a single pink style hug the inside of the upper lip. The calyx cupping the flower is about half as long as the flower with 4 triangular lobes. Flower stalks are very short; at the base of the stalk is a leaf-like bract. The calyx, stalk, and bract are all hairy and purplish-green to dark purple.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves and stem] Leaves are opposite, narrowly lance-oblong to lance-elliptic, up to about 2 inches long, to 3/8 inch wide, stalkless, may be widely spaced, and are commonly droopy. Edges have a few blunt teeth, surfaces are rough hairy. Stems are branched, weakly 4-sided and rough-hairy with downward pointing (retrorse) hairs. The whole plant can take on a purple cast.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is an elliptic, hairy capsule about as long as or slightly longer than the persistent calyx, turning dark purplish at maturity. A single plant can produce up to 1400 seeds.


Red Bartsia is a recent introduction to Minnesota with only 3 reports to-date, but like many other weeds, is likely under-reported. It is considered a noxious weed in Canada; according to the Alberta Invasive Species Council, it first infested livestock pastures then moved into native grasslands, suspected to be transported by hunters on their ATV tires. Its taxonomy is confusing; as of this writing, Flora of North America states North American specimens appear to be Odontites vulgaris, but most other references are calling it O. vernus, some calling O. vulgaris a synonym and others keeping them separate species. Any distinctions between the two are vague and not well documented; there are also reportedly multiple vars or subspecies which are also not well documented. We're going with majority rule here and will call it O. vernus until better documentation is available.

Red Bartsia is not likely to be confused with other species. It is a relatively short plant, not much over a foot tall, hairy all over and often purple-tinged all over. The racemes are frequently nodding at the tip and the small, pink, tubular flowers may appear one-sided. The hairy capsules are said to stick to animal fur, which can transport it to new locations. Like other members of the Orobanchaceae family, it is hemiparasitic with apparently a wide range of grass and forb hosts that it feeds on in adverse conditions.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Kanabec County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Joan Young - Itasca County
on: 2022-08-31 19:56:05

The North Country Trail has a mile of trail west of Tioga Beach, and where it follows an east-west two track, there is a lot of Odontites sp in the pathway. 47o13'31.4", -93o37'27.9" and vicinity. I have pictures

Posted by: Susan foss - East central
on: 2023-09-13 18:34:43

Just found 3 plants in our hay field. 2023-014-23. I destroyed them.

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