Montag, 2. Juni 2014

Portrait: Orobanche caryophyllacea Sm. (and Orobanche caryophyllacea f. citrina A. Dietr.)

This time, we want to take a closer look on a species from the Ororbranchaceae family („broomrape“ in English and „Sommerwurzgewächse“ in German). This species is Orobanche caryophyllacea Sm. (German: „Nelken-Sommerwurz“). We will also take a short look on Orobanche caryophyllacea f. citrina A. Dietr.; a subspecies of O. caryophyllacea

1) Description

The Orobanchaeceae are a family, which is strongly related to the Lamiaceae and Scrophulariaceae families. Actually, the Orobanchaeae were part of the Scrophulariaceae but today, their 12 Genera form an own family. Their leaves have no chlorophyll and as a result, they are not able to make photosynthesis. So, nearly all of them are parasites, which leech on other plants (mostly other Dicotyledones).

1.1) Orobanche caryophyllacea Sm.

O. charyophyllacea (Genus: Orobanche) is probably one of the best-known species from the Orobanchaceae. In Germany, the species is known as “Nelken-Sommerwurz” but other common names are “Gewöhnliche Sommerwurz”. 

O. charyophyllacea- habitus

It's a annual or perennial plant, which can reach a maximum height between 20 and 50 centimeters. Due the lack of any chlorophyll, the stalk has a purple to brownish-purple color and isn't green. The leaves are small an scale like. This morphology is a result of evolution: the plant doesn't need large leaves, because it makes no photosynthesis. So, they were reduced during the time.

O. charyophyllacea- flower (note the glands and the
purple stylus)

The root is a thick bulb. From here, small projections (Hausteria) penetrate into the root of the host plants. This happens right after the germination of the seeds.

The cygomorphic flowers are arranged in a single, loose pannicle. All petals are grown together at their base and form a tubular structure. At the apex of the flower, the two upper petals form a large lip, while the other three petals form three, small tips. Such flowers are mostly pollinated by larger insects or even small bird, which have to crawl into the flower for nectar and as a result, they take many pollen with them.

O. charyophyllacea- habitus

The calyx is small and consists of five, free sepals. The flowers have the same color like the rest of the plant. Another interesting detail: the flowers smells like cloves, what is also the reason for the suffix “caryophyllacea”.

In addition, the whole flowers are covered with glands.

 O. caryophyllacea f. citrina  -

Flowering time is between Mai and July, which makes O. caryophllacea to one of the earliest blooming members of the Orobanchaceae in Europe. The seeds are very small and only about half a centimeter in diameter. 

O. caryophyllacea f. citrina - flowers
(in contrast to the main species, the stylus is yellow and
not purple)
The specific host of O. caryophyllacea are plants from the Genus Galium from the Rubiaceae. By its Hausteria, the parasite robs water from the host and reduces its quality of live. So, O. caryophyllacea is also known as “galium-strangler”.

1.2) Orobanche caryophyllacea f. citrina A. Dietr.

This is a more rare subspecies of O. caryophyllacea, but it's anatomically the same plant. However, the most distinctive difference between the main species and O. caryophyllacea f. citrina A. Dietr. is the color. As you can see on my picture, the flowers and the stalk of the subspecies has a golden yellow color. So, it looks more spectacular than O. caryophyllacea.

O. caryophyllacea f. citrina -

The exact reason for this contrasting color isn't clear. In my opinion, it's a mutation of the Genes, which are responsible for the pigmentation. This is the most obvious solution for me.

2) Distribution & Ecology

Members of the Orobanchaceae can be found all over the world. However, the most genera are native to the temperate regions of the old world (Europe and Asia). Due the high specification towards their hosts, the distribution also depends a little bit on the distribution of the host.

such a meadow is a typical habitat for
O. caryophyllacea

O. caryophyllacea (and Orobanche caryophyllacea f. citrina A. Dietr.) are native to Europe and Western Asia. It prefers warm places on lime and a nutrient-rich soil. The species can be found on warm, dry meadows (this is a special kind of biotop, which is called “Trockenrasen” in German) and sunny shrubberies along paths.

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