Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Orobanchaceae, Broomrape Family

The Orobanchaceae, also known as the broomrapes, is a mostly world-wide family of parasitic species with many previously included in the Scrophulariaceae family. Members may be herbs, perennials or shrubs and all are parasitic, fully or partially so, on the roots of other plants. This is the largest of several families that display parasitic characteristics. The Plant List recognizes 89 plant genera and 1,613 accepted species names.

Orobanchaceae is a very unique and interesting family containing some very rare beautiful species as well as common noxious weeds. For example, a sub-species of Orobanche ludoviciana is listed as threatened and endangered in 6 states (Orobanche ludoviciana subsp. ludoviciana) and at the same time it is listed as a noxious weed (Orobanche ludoviciana) in 9 states.

Orobanchaceae species have short vegetative stems, alternate leaves which have been modified to fleshy scales, leaf surface with a pubescence of multicellular and glandular hairs. Flowers; bi-sexual, bilaterally symmetrical, inflorescence of racemes or spikes. Flowers with 2 lobed upper lip and 3 lobed lower lip, pollinated by insects or birds. Fruits are small and numerous dehiscent hard capsules, each with thousands seeds dispersed by wind.

Economic importance is mostly related to severe crop damage by some species in the genus Orobanche and Striga. Crops parasitized include sugarcane, tomatoes, maize, millet, sorghum and several other significant agricultural crops. Other species including Cistanche and Conopholis are threatened through loss of habitat and loss of host plants.

  • See Scrophulariaceae Species
  • Date Family Profile Completed: 03/14/2016
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database – ITIS search
    The Plant List (2013).
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Orobanchaceae', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 February 2016, 12:01 UTC,> [accessed 14 March 2016]
    American Journey of Botany, Phylogeny of the parasitic plant family Orobanchaceae inferred from phytochrome A (accessed 03/14/2016).
    U.S. National Library of Medicine, Phylogeny and origins of holoparasitism in Orobanchaceae. (accessed 03/14/2016).