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Orobanchaceae
Plants of the Broomrape Family

Orobanchaceae: Broomrape Family Plant Identification Characteristics.

      The Broomrape family consists of plants with figwort-like flowers that are parasitic on other plants, typically feeding off their root systems. The traditional family included only genera lacking chlorophyll, which are easy to recognize, since the vegetation isn't green. Taxonomists have expanded the family to include partially parasitic (hemiparasitic) genera, which were formerly included in the Figwort family. These plants have chlorophyll and produce their own energy through photosynthesis, so they are not wholly dependent on their host plants.

      Unfortunately, the casual observer would not recognize them as hemiparasitic plants, so the connection to the Broomrape family is not obvious. But these new additions to the family often have highly modified or contorted flowers. There are typical figwort-like features, such as irregular, tubular flowers, often with 2 petal lobes up and 3 down, but most flowers are contorted such that they do not look like other figworts, either. There are several tribes of closely related genera within the Broomrape family, but for convenience in identification, all are lumped into two groups below, those with and without chlorophyll. Keep in mind that the Indian Pipe, Morning Glory and Orchid families also include species without chlorophyll.

Key Words: Parasitic plants with Figwort-like flowers.

Holoparasitic Genera | Hemiparasitic Genera
(Plants without Chlorophyll) | (Plants with Chlorophyll)      

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Holoparasitic Genera (Plants without Chlorophyll)
If you find a plant with Figwort-like flowers and no chlorophyll, then it is likely a holoparasitic member of the Broomrape family. Plants of this group are parasitic on the roots of other plants. They have no leaves, but the stalk is wrapped with alternate bracts. The flowers are bisexual and irregular. The corolla is tubular with an upper and lower lip, similar to the Figwort family. There are 2 to 5 united sepals, 5 united petals and 4 stamens appearing in pairs. The ovary is positioned superior and consists of 2 united carpels forming a single chamber. It matures as a capsule with many seeds.

Orobanche fasciculata. Clustered Broomrape.

Orobanche fasciculata. Clustered Broomrape. Chiricahua Mountains. Near Portal, Arizona.

Orobanche fasciculata. Clustered Broomrape.

Orobanche fasciculata. Clustered Broomrape. This one is parasitic on Artemisia frigida. Hell's Canyon. Highland Mountains. Near Silver Star, Montana.

Orobanche fasciculata. Clustered Broomrape.

Orobanche fasciculata. Clustered Broomrape. Kettle Falls, Washington.

Orobanche fasciculata. Clustered Broomrape.

Orobanche fasciculata. Clustered Broomrape. Kettle Falls, Washington.

Conopholis alpina. Alpine Cancer Root.

Conopholis alpina. Alpine Cancer Root.

Conopholis alpina. Alpine Cancer Root.

Conopholis alpina. Alpine Cancer Root. Chiricahua Mountains. Near Portal, Arizona.

Hemiparasitic Genera (Plants with Chlorophyll)
These flowers were formerly classified within the Figwort family.

Orthocarpus tenuifolius. Thin-Leaved Owl Clover.

Orthocarpus tenuifolius. Thin-Leaved Owl Clover. Castle Mountains, near the Smith River.

Orthocarpus tenuifolius. Thin-Leaved Owl Clover.

Orthocarpus tenuifolius. Thin-Leaved Owl Clover. Castle Mountains, near the Smith River.

Castilleja sessiliflora. Downy Paintbrush.

Castilleja sessiliflora. Downy Paintbrush.

Castilleja sessiliflora. Downy Paintbrush.

Castilleja sessiliflora. Downy Paintbrush. Tongue River, Montana.

Castilleja sp. Yellow Paintbrush.

Castilleja sp. Yellow Paintbrush. Tobacco Root Mountains. Pony, Montana.

Castilleja sp. Yellow Paintbrush.

Castilleja sp. Yellow Paintbrush. Tobacco Root Mountains. Pony, Montana.

Castilleja scabrida. Rough Indian Paintbrush.

Castilleja scabrida. Rough Indian Paintbrush. Escalante River. Utah.

Castilleja scabrida. Rough Indian Paintbrush.

Castilleja scabrida. Rough Indian Paintbrush. Escalante River. Utah.

Castilleja hispida. Harsh Indian Paintbrush.

Castilleja hispida. Harsh Indian Paintbrush. Madison Range, Montana.

Castilleja hispida. Harsh Indian Paintbrush.

Castilleja hispida. Harsh Indian Paintbrush. Madison Range, Montana.

Castilleja linariifolia. Wyoming Indian Paintbrush.

Castilleja linariifolia. Wyoming Indian Paintbrush. Madison Range, Montana. This is the state flower of Wyoming

Castilleja thompsonii. Thompson's Paintbrush.

Castilleja thompsonii. Thompson's Paintbrush.

Castilleja densiflora. Denseflower Indian Paintbrush.

Castilleja densiflora. Denseflower Indian Paintbrush.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West
Rhinanthus minor. Little Yellow Rattle.

Rhinanthus minor. Little Yellow Rattle.

Rhinanthus minor. Little Yellow Rattle.

Rhinanthus minor. Little Yellow Rattle.

Pedicularis bracteosa. Yellow Lousewort.

Pedicularis bracteosa. Yellow Lousewort.

Pedicularis bracteosa. Yellow Lousewort.

Pedicularis bracteosa. Yellow Lousewort.

Pedicularis groenlandica. Elephant Head Lousewort.

Pedicularis groenlandica. Elephant Head Lousewort.

Pedicularis groenlandica. Elephant Head Lousewort.

Pedicularis groenlandica. Elephant Head Lousewort.

Pedicularis contorta. Coiled Lousewort.

Pedicularis contorta. Coiled Lousewort.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West
Pedicularis racemosa. Parrot's Beak Lousewort.

Pedicularis racemosa. Parrot's Beak Lousewort.

Pedicularis racemosa. Parrot's Beak Lousewort.

Pedicularis racemosa. Parrot's Beak Lousewort.

There are more
Broomrape Family pictures
at PlantSystematics.org.


Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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Botany in a Day
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Foraging the Mountain West

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Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
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