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Balanophora fungosa subsp. indica var. indica and Balanophora fungosa

Balanophora fungosa subsp. indica var. indica
Balanophora fungosa subsp. indica var. indica
Balanophora fungosa

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Balanophora species are among the most unusual of all higher plants that have been featured here on Botany Photo of the Day. The list of novel characteristics for this genus is lengthy. According to Mabberley (The Plant Book, 2nd ed. 1987, Cambridge), these root parasites are known to parasitize at least 74 species in 35 families (one species, the comparatively well known and widely distributed Balanophora fungosa, has at least 25 host species). Above-ground parts are small and distinctly fungus-like, while underground, the plants produce large tuberous growths without any discernable roots. The tubers are the source for a wax-like substance, balanaphorin, which is the food reserve (instead of starch) for the plants. This material is also used for torches in Java.

Some species of Balanophora are dioecious (male and female flowers are produced on separate plants), while others are monoecious (separate male and female flowers borne on the same plant), such as Balanophora fungosa. In general, the inflorescences burst out of the tuberous structures, leaving a collar at ground level around the base of the flower stalk. Flowers are myiophilous (fly-pollinated) according to some authors. The seeds, which are exceptionally tiny (ca. 7 micrograms apiece) are borne without enclosing carpels. Plants in the genus (and the family, Balanophoraceae) are echlorophyllous (have no chlorophyll) and are holoparasitic (entirely parasitic—completely reliant on their hosts for survival). The 15 species in the genus are all native to the Old World Tropics. For the more botanically inclined, the Angiosperm Phylogeny Web Site and the Parasitic Plants Connection include some fascinating tidbits about the family Balanophoraceae and its relationships to other parasitic plants.

8 Comments

Thanks so much for this entry and the fascinating photos. They look like something flies would be attracted to. At first I thought they were fungi. The plant kingdom diversity is phenomenal.

WOW! the diversity of higher plants boggles my mind. When will the molecular types find the mechanisms for such evolutionary leaps? (I've never had much faith in DNA sequence change and Mendelian inheritance alone for explanation, there's gotta be more to it)

The name then mean,"blubber producing"?

Fascinating. Amazing photographs. Thank you.

This part of the plant world is very interesting.
I really like the photographs. I do so appreaciate all the information.
Thank you,
Margaret-Rae

balano = acorn, -phore (combining form) = bear.

As in, bearing acorns, in reference (I suspect) to the shape of the above-ground protuberances.

thank you to all
the links will take you places
and pictures that are amazeing
to this persons eyes and hopefully
to your eyes and all the people
one meets along the way
hi to one and all

Wow, when i read "without any discernible roots" and "instead of starch", i was thinking, "well obviously, its a fungus" but when i got to the "some ... are dioecious" part, i had to do a double take before I realized it was really a plant after all. No wonder you mentioned "higher plants"!

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