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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Fascicled Broomrape (Orobanche fasciculata)


Although fairly common on the Dakota prairies from June through August, fascicled broomrape is easily overlooked because of its short stature and ghostly pale appearance. The plant is extensively distributed, being found from Michigan to the Yukon and south to the desert grasslands of northern Mexico at elevations up to 10,000 ft.

Broomrapes are easily recognized because they are light fleshy-pink colored rather than green like most other plants. This is because broomrape is a root-parasite and does not contain chlorophyll, the green pigmented chemical necessary for plants to produce their own food. Fascicled broomrape is about four inches tall. Pallid yellowish-purple flowers about three-quarters of an inch long occur in small clusters. Roots produce one to three short, scaly stems, each bearing bunches of longer stalks on which the flowers are borne.

The species is an annual that does not develop an extensive root system. Fruiting capsules produce dust-like seed that likely works its way down to moist soil for germination. Of the seedlings thus produced, only a few whose roots are in contact with the roots of a host plant will survive. Survival depends on the development of button-like, structures called haustoria that contain a fungus that penetrates the host root.

In our area, broomrape mostly parasitizes the roots of members of the sunflower family (Asteraceae), particularly the sages and wormwoods that are commonly found in overgrazed pastures. The entire plant was used as food by native Americans.

The broomrape family (Orobanchaceae) and the genus Orobanche derive their names from the Greek orobos, "vetch," and anchein, "to strangle," in reference to the parasitic habit of some European species on legumes. The specific name fasciculata means "bunched" in botanical Latin. Broomrape was first described for science in 1818 by botanist Thomas Nuttall.


Return to Orobanchaceae (The Broomrape Family)

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