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With a life's experience of teaching field studies in the Forest of Dean, Brian Cave explores the ecology of rural France. More Info

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May 2015
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An English Naturalist in France


May 24, 2015

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Ivy Broomrape?

  There are 32 species of broomrape listed in the new work on the flora of  France (Flora Gallica by Tison & Foucault). There are 26 in the older Flora of Abbé Coste.  The British Flora has ten.  And I have to say they are a confusing bunch.

Some people ask ‘are they orchids?’  Not at all.  Some bear a superficial resemblance to the bird’s nest orchid, but as soon as you get within reading distance the difference is quite clear.  They do not have the descending labellum of the orchid.

All broomrapes (the genus Orobanche) are complete parasites on the roots of a wide variety of higher plants.  The leaves are reduced to bracts usually of a cream to dark brown colour.  They flowering stems stand about  30 cms or less in height.

They are extremely difficult to separate in a botanical key – that is damned hard to identify in the botanical texts. 

One is asked to judge to the millimetre how far the stamens are inserted above the base of the sepals.  The colour of the stigma is important in identification.

This picture is probably the Ivy Broomrape – Orobanche hederae.   Its rootstock has suckers which are attached to the roots of ivy.

In modern texts it is classified in its own family with other species which are known to be semi parasites of other plants -such as the yellow rattle (Rhinanthus) toothworts (Lathraea) Cow-wheat (Melampyrum) and Eyebrights (Euphrasia)

by Brian Cave. Find out more about Brian Cave here.

Categories: Orobanche, Wild Plants