How could it be that this flower so closely resembles an elephant? What sort of cosmic genetic shuffling must of taken place? There is a precedent where orchids will mimic their highly specialized pollinator, recreating an image of their mate with petals, stamens, pistils… but there is motive there, and direct relationship. What does this Sierra Nevada native have to do with a mammal from another continent? Were there wooly mammoths in the Sierras? Did they pollinate this flower? Big questions.
Pedicularis groenlandica, aptly named Elephant’s Head. I have never seen this plant in any abundance, and thus have never harvested it. I do use its more prolific and more neighborly cousin, Pedicularis densiflora (Indian Warrior), as an incredible skeletal muscle relaxant and general nervine. All the plants in this genus are semi-parasitic, meaning that they will partially rely on another plant for sustenance.