Broomrape Family

Dense-flowered Owl’s Clover © TCorelli

Orobanchaceae (or-o-ban-KA-see-ee)

Iconic Features

    • All species partially or completely parasitic
    • Plants lacking chlorophyll have leaves reduced to fleshy scales
    • Flowers bilaterally symmetrical

    Description (Jepson)

      • Annual herbs or perennial herbs or shrubs
      • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
        • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
        • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
        • Flower parts in fours and fives
        • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
        • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
        • Taproot system
      • Leaves
        • Generally simple (not divided into leaflets)
        • Reduced to fleshy scales in plants lacking chlorophyll (holoparasitic)
        • Usually alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
      • Flowers
        • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) in many forms
          • Usually with bracts (modified leaves at flower base)
        • Bisexual and bilaterally symmetrical flowers
          • 2 fused upper petals and 3 fused lower petals, arranged like lips
        • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
      • Fruit is a capsule (a dry, multi-chambered fruit that splits open at maturity) with many tiny seeds


        • Approximately 2,060 species worldwide
          • Includes owl’s-clover, paintbrush, warrior’s plume, cream sacs, and broomrapes
        • Only plant family with both completely-parasitic (holoparasitic) and partially-parasitic (hemiparasitic) species
          • Holoparasitic – plants lack chlorophyll and depend on host for nutrition (e.g. clustered broomrape)
          • Hemiparasitic – plants have chlorophyll, but take some water and nutrients from other plants, sometimes species-specific hosts (e.g. warrior’s plume)
        • Modified roots (haustoria) grow into the host plant
        • Distinct from myco-heterotrophs, such as coralroot orchids, which also lack chlorophyll but have a symbiotic relationship with fungi
        • Some species can have significant economic impact by damaging commercial crops
        • Scientific name from the included genus Orobanche, from the Greek orobos, “a vetch,” and anchone, “strangle,” alluding to its parasitic nature
        • Common name from the word “broom,” referring to various shrubs in the Pea family, and the Latin rāpum, “tuber”; thus referring to the parasitizing of broom roots by members of this family
        • Represented by 14 species at Edgewood

        See General References

        Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family