Scientists Dr. Chris Thorogood at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, & Dr. Fred Rumsey at London’s explanation Museum have just described a new latest sort of a wierd parasitic “vampire“ plant referred to as “common broomrape.”
Broomrapes are sap-sucking “plant pilferers” that steal their food from the roots of other plants, their so-called hosts. In this case, new variety they name Orobanche minor var. Heliophila features a peculiar affinity for Ikea & Tesco carparks.
The sinister looking vampire has no leaves, roots or green pigments of its own, and comprises a peculiar purplish flowering spike that juts out of ground .
The reason the newly discovered variety has an affinity for this somewhat surprising habitat is linked to its penchant for a specific shrub called Brachyglottis × jubar “Sunshine“ that’s often planted in shop carparks—and the occasional service-station too—enabling the parasite the thrive there.
It also grows in amenity plantings in parks, gardens & along sea fronts. The botanists named the new variety after its host, heliophila, meaning “sun-loving.” Although the plant may be a parasite, it poses no threat to plants it feeds on & isn’t dangerous or harmful.
The scientists examined a variety of features in great detail, for instance the anatomy of the roots, floral parts, color, ability to regenerate (perennation)—and its ability to grow on different host plants.
Together, these data indicate that the newly described variety may be a race that’s distinct from other sorts of the plant that are documented or well known to science. The new variety occurs throughout Britain, especially in south & southeast, but it’s unknown when it evolved because its host (Brachyglottis) was introduced to the United Kingdom after 1910 from New Zealand. It’s possible that a shift in host has taken place from native vegetation to the cultivated shrub, following the widespread introduction of Brachyglottis for amenity planting in recent decades.
Parasitic plants, like broomrapes, have aroused curiosity for hundreds of years yet they continue to be one among the foremost poorly understood groups of all the flowering plants. Indeed much of their evolutionary biology & life history remains a mystery.
There are over 4,000 species of parasite & that they occur altogether major ecosystems from tropical rainforests to arctic tundra, and new species are discovered every year . Because they derive nutrition from their hosts, some have lost the features typical of most plants, for instance green leaves, stems & even roots. Botanists previously relied on such features to classify plants, then the evolutionary relationships among these parasites have long remained unclear.
The scientists’ latest research featured here shows that broomrapes appear to be forming new species by switching hosts, but the method has gone largely unnoticed because they appear so similar. It goes to point out that you simply do not have to remote fact of rainforest to get new plant life—new species are often hiding in plain sight. Next time you are doing the shopping or refill the car, look carefully at the shrubbery & you’ll well spot a vegetable vampire at your feet.