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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Ivy Broomrape - in which I get to use the phrase "sex-aid pink".

Orobanche hederae.  Ivy Broomrape.  I assume that the "rape" bit of the name refers to its taking over the host plant.

Etymology of rape 14c: past participle of Latin rapere "seize, carry off by force, abduct". 

We found this plant on Greenwich Peninsula in June.  We went looking for it specifically (it had been spotted the year before), as I was slightly fascinated and intrigued about a plant that grew, parasitically, on ivy.  Ivy being the bane of my life.  One day I might need to be cut out of it, like Sleeping Beauty. It threatens to cover my garden, my house and is probably heading for my car!

There was fine specimen on this ivy.  Just next to where they have pulled down the former Sainsbury's. The one that won lots of design awards, but apparently is no longer fit for purpose.  But that aside, the plant was there.

It is, as I mentioned, parasitic.  There are a few Broomrapes, most of them are host specific and this one will only grow on ivy.  These parasitic plant lack chlorophyll and are therefore, lacking in colour.  They vary between sex-aid pink and pinky-cream.   Adding the description I found on the internet  "reddish purple, glandular hairy and swollen at the base" it makes them sound unspeakable.

The seeds will germinate when they are contact with the host roots.  The seed grows into the root and develops an underground tuber, from which the plant develops.  The hairs are sticky, which is thought to detract non-flying insects.  Bees are encouraged, though, for pollination.  Here is a rather  magnificent picture I took.  I think it looks quite pretty, despite my description above!

I have sketched a few of them and am hoping to make some prints of this fascinating plant.  There are many other Broomrapes, and something called Toothwort that appears in early spring, parasitic to hazel, apparently.  I'll be there next April, looking for it!





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