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Top 5 Parasitic Plants

Parasitic plants derive some or all of their sustenance from other plants. There are approximately 4,100 species of parasitic plant divided into 19 families.

They have a modified root, known as the haustorium, that penetrates the host plant and connects to the xylem, phloem or both.

1. The Corpse Flower
(Rafflesia arnoldii)
This plant boasts the largest individual flower in the world and it measures over 1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter. It is endemic to the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra and it smells like decaying flesh.

2. Mistletoe
(eg. Viscum album)
Mistletoe is the common name for obligate hemi-parasitic plants. They live on the branches of trees and shrubs and although they feed off their hosts, they can also sustain themselves through photosynthesis.

3. Western Australian Christmas Tree
(Nuytsia floribunda)
This is also a hemi-parasitic plant and they have been known to cause damage to underground cables by attaching their haustoria to them. During the festive season they get bright orange flowers on them.

4. Cactus Mistletoe
(Tristerix aphylla)
This is only known to grow on two species of cacti and it is found in Chile.

5 Bird's-Nest Orchid

(Neottia nidus-avis)
Bird's-Nest Orchids are non-photosynthetic orchids. They feed off a fungi that is itself feeding off a photosynthetic host. These plants are unusual because they live entirely underground beneath beech trees, the only time you might catch a glimpse of them is in summer when it pokes up a yellow flowering stem.

The Corpse Flower
The Corpse Flower
Photographer: MA Suska

Bird's-Nest Orchid
Bird's-Nest Orchid


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