Balanophoraceae, Hutchinson and Dalziel. Flora of West Tropical Africa 1:2. 1958
- Fleshy herbs parasitic on roots, annual or perennial, destitute of chlorophyll and stomata
- Flowers unisexual, very rarely hermaphrodite, densely crowded into unisexual or androgynous inflorescences; male flowers without or with a valvate 3–8-lobed perianth
- Stamens 1–2 in the achlamydeous flowers, in those with a perianth often equal in number to, and opposite the lobes; filaments free or connate; anthers 2–4-celled or with many cells, free or connate, opening by pores or slits
- Ovary 1–3-celled, adnate to the perianth when present; styles 1–2, terminal or rarely the stigma sessile and discoid; ovule solitary in each cell, mostly pendulous, nude or with a single integument
- Fruit small, nut-like, 1-celled, 1-seeded
- Seeds with abundant endosperm and very small embryo
Delprete, P.G. (2009). Neotropical Balanophoraceae.
Herbaceous , fleshy plants, entirely or partially subterraneous, "fungus-like", parasitic on roots of trees, shrubs or herbs, without chlorophyll, without stomata , with white, yellow, red or brown color; " tuber " (undefined root / stem structure) branched, unbranched, globose , or irregularly shaped, with the inflorescence originating directly from the " tuber ". Leaves reduced to scales, spirally arranged, margin entire , venation not evident. Inflorescence spicate or spadix -shaped, the lateral branches much reduced or absent; bracts scale-like, triangular, ovate , hexagonal or almost round, peltate . Flowers unisexual. Male flowers 3- merous , with 3- lobed perianth , or a synandrium of 3 free anthers; anthers 2(3)-locular, basifixed, opening by longitudinal slit. Female flowers with a 2- lobed or irregularly- lobed perianth , or absent; ovary inferior; ovary without well-defined locules , placenta , and ovules; styles 1 or 2, stigma minutely capitate . Fruit a minute, 1-seeded achene .
Distribution in the Neotropics
- Corynaea Hook.f. (1 sp.): Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
- Helosis Rich. (1 sp.): Mexico, Central America, Greater Antilles, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guianas, throughout southern Brazil.
- Langsdorffia Mart. (1 sp.): Throughout the Neotropics, from Mexico to southern Brazil.
- Lathrophytum Eichl. (1 sp.): Brazil (states of Goiás and Rio de Janeiro).
- Lophophytum Schott & Endl. (4 spp.): Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and northern Argentina.
- Ombrophytum Poepp. ex Endl. (4 spp.): Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina.
- Scybalium Schott & Endl. (4 spp.): Greater Antilles, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Brazil.
Key differences from similar families
- Family very distinctive from other parasitic taxa, by its set of unique characters.
- The other family of subterranean holoparasitic root parasites with subterranean habit is the Hydnoraceae, which is a characterized by a large, fleshy, solitary flower, with 3-4 fleshy tepals, and a large fruit with numerous seeds.
Key to genera of Neotropical Balanophoraceae
Key adapted from Hansen (1980):
1. Style 1; tubers with wax; flowers not embedded in filiform hairs, or anthers 3, merged into a synandrium ... Langsdorffia
1. Styles 2; tubers with starch; flowers with both sexes imbedded in filiform hairs, or anthers 2, not merged into a synandrium ... 2
2. Flowers embedded in a layer of filiform hairs; anthers merged into a usually 3-merous synandrium ... 3
2. Flowers not imbedded in hairs, on conspicuous or elongated branches, these subtended by deciduous scale-like bracts; stamens with filaments ... 5
3. Stem and young inflorescence covered by triangular scales ... Scybalium
3. Stem naked, or with a few inconspicuous bracts; young inflorescence covered by hexagonal, peltate bracts ... 4
4. Inflorescence emerging from buds on elongated, rhizome-like structures, these appearing from a "tuber" connected with the host root... Helosis
4. Inflorescence emerging directly from a "tuber" connected with the host root... Corynaea
5. Inflorescence branches subtended by ovate -triangular bracts; apical part of female branch not peltately enlarged ... Lophophytum
5. Inflorescence branches subtended by hexagonal or irregularly-shaped bracts; apical part of female branch peltately enlarged, covering the flowers ... 6
6. Male flowers solitary, each flower subtended by a peltatebract; anthers sessile... LathrophytumNotable genera and distinguishing features
6. Male flowers in many-flowered branches, these subtended by a peltate or clavate bract; stamens with evident filaments ... Ombrophytum
See aboveDistinguishing characters (always present)
- Parasitic plants, on roots trees, shrubs or herbs.
- Entirely or partially subterraneous.
- Without chlorophyll.
- Without stomata.
- White, yellow, red or brown color.
- "Tuber" branched, unbranched, globose, or irregularly shaped.
- Inflorescence originating directly from the "tuber ".
- Flowers minute, unisexual,: male flowers 3-merous, female flowers 2-merous.
- Ovary without well-defined locules, placenta, and ovules.
- Fruit a minute, 1-seeded achene.
- General Description
Number of genera
Worldwide 18 genera and 45 species. In the Neotropics, 7 genera and 16 species:
- Corynaea (1 sp.)
- Helosis (1 sp.)
- Langsdorffia (1 sp)
- Lathrophytum (1 sp.)
- Lophophytum (4 spp.)
- Ombrophytum (4 spp.)
- Scybalium (4 spp.)
- A poorly known family in terms of distribution, pollination, and number of species, mostly due to their partially or entirely subterranean habit.
- Some reports of plants visited by flies, bees and wasps, but no definitive studies about their pollination biology. Also, some reports about seed dispersal by ants.
- Their general physiology is also little-known, as is a family without stomata.
Borchsenius, F. & , J.M. Olesen. 1990. The Amazonian root holoparasite Lophophytum mirabile (Balanophoraceae) and its pollinators and herbivores. J. Trop. Ecol. 6: 501-505.
Delprete, P.G. 2004. A new species of Lophophytum and the first report of Lathrophytum (Balanophoraceae) from the state of Goiás, Central Brazil. Kew Bull. 59: 291-295.
Hansen, B. 1980. Balanophoraceae. Fl. Neotrop. Monogr. 23: 1-80.
Kuijt, J. & W.X. Dong. 1990. Surface features of the leaves of Balanophoraceae - A family without stomata? Pl. Syst. Evol. 170: 29-35.
Balanophoraceae, B. Hansen. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1993
- Herbaceous, fleshy root-parasites, without chlorophyll and roots, yellowish white to yellow, orange to red or brown to black
- Tuber cylindrical or subspherical, branched or unbranched, irregularly corrugated or variously polygonately furrowed or ± warty, subterranean, developing by germination of a fruit on a suitable host root, producing one or more inflorescence-bearing stems
- Stems with or without leaves, unbranched
- Leaves scaly, spirally arranged or distichous, decussate or verticillate, sometimes much reduced
- Inflorescence branched or appearing spadix-like, the branches much suppressed, rarely composed of minute cymes (Cynomorium L.); branches of first order bracteate, well-developed to totally suppressed, sometimes with the sterile apical part peltately widened; bracts scaly, ± transformed and reduced, triangular or peltate or reduced to a clavate structure, caducous or persistent, Flowers unisexual, rarely bisexual
- Male flowers without a perianth, or perianth of 3–7 segments Female flowers without a perianth or with a superior perianth inconspicuously 2-lobed or rarely 3–6-lobed
- Male flowers without a perianth, or perianth of 3–7 segments
- Stamens 1–7 or united into a synandrium, opposite the perianth-segments; anthers dehiscing longitudinally or irregularly
- Female flowers without a perianth or with a superior perianth inconspicuously 2-lobed or rarely 3–6-lobed
- Ovary 1-locular or without a cavity and any definite placenta; styles 1–2(–3), alternate with perianth-lobes; stigma inconspicuous or ± capitellate; generally one few-celled embryo developing in the central tissue of the ovary, surrounded by a few-celled endosperm and a layer of stone cells at maturity
- Fruit a small 1-seeded achene
Flora Zambesiaca. Vol. 9, Part 3. Polygonaceae-Myriaceae. Pope GV, Polhill RM, Martins ES. 2006.
- Herbaceous parasites on roots of woody plants, without chlorophyll, usually brightly coloured, fleshy, arising from underground tubers attached to host plant, monoecious, dioecious or polygamous Herbaceous parasites on roots of woody plants, without chlorophyll, usually brightly coloured, fleshy, arising from underground tubers attached to host plant, monoecious, dioecious or polygamous
- Tubers cylindrical or subspherical, irregularly lobed or emitting branched cylindrical rhizomes Tubers cylindrical or subspherical, irregularly lobed or emitting branched cylindrical rhizomes
- Inflorescences simple or branched, with or without bracts Inflorescences simple or branched, with or without bracts
- Flowers borne in involucrate heads or in dense fleshy inflorescences Female flowers: perianth absent or much reduced, 3–several-lobed and adnate to ovary Male flowers: perianth segments (tepals) 3–9; stamens 2–12, free or united into a synandrium Flowers borne in involucrate heads or in dense fleshy inflorescences Female flowers: perianth absent or much reduced, 3–several-lobed and adnate to ovary Male flowers: perianth segments (tepals) 3–9; stamens 2–12, free or united into a synandrium
- Ovary inferior, 1–3-locular, ovules 1–3
- Style 1, long, filiform, or absent
- Fruit indehiscent, aggregated into syncarpia or separate. Fruit indehiscent, aggregated into syncarpia or separate
- I have largely followed B. Hansen's treatment in his ‘Balanophoraceae of Continental Africa’ (Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 106: 359–377 (1986)).
- A family of about 18 genera and 40–45 species in the tropics and subtropics.
- Rhizomes with or without scaly leaves Rhizomes with or without scaly leaves
- Male flowers: perianth segments (tepals) 3–9; stamens 2–12, free or united into a synandrium
- Female flowers: perianth absent or much reduced, 3–several-lobed and adnate to ovary
- Style 1, long, filiform, or absent Ovary inferior, 1–3-locular, ovules 1–3
- Balanophora J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.
- Chlamydophytum Mildbr.
- Corynaea Hook.f.
- Dactylanthus Hook.f.
- Ditepalanthus Fagerl.
- Hachettea Baill.
- Helosis Rich.
- Langsdorffia Mart.
- Lathrophytum Eichler
- Lophophytum Schott & Endl.
- Mystropetalon Harv.
- Ombrophytum Poepp. ex Endl.
- Rhopalocnemis Jungh.
- Sarcophyte Sparrm.
- Scybalium Schott & Endl.
- Thonningia Vahl
First published in Mém. Mus. Hist. Nat. 8: 429. 1822 [18 Nov 1822] (1822)
- APG IV (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/boj.12385
Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa
Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.