Tuesday 5 June 2012

New species of parasitic Broomrape from South Korea.

Broomrapes (Orobanchaceae) are herbaceous plants related to Lavender, Mint and Basil. Many members of the group are parasitic, living on other plants from which they gain water and minerals, but still photosynthesizing for themselves.

In a paper published in the journal Phytotaxa on 26 January, Ki-Joong Kim of the School of Life Sciences at Korea University and Seok-Min Yun of the Park and Recreation Division of the City Government of Seoul describe a new species of Broomrape from the small island Somaemul-do in South Korea.

The new species is placed in the genus Melampyrum, which are facultative parasites; they can survive and reproduce without their host plants, but will parasitize them if they are available. It is given the specific name koreanum, since it is endemic to Korea. 

Melampyrum koreanum is an erect herbaceous plant 50-90 cm in height. It has branching stems with pointed, waxy leaves and bracts of flowers at their tips. It flowers from September to October and produces fruiting bodies from October to November. It is pollenated by a species of Hawkmoth.

Melampyrum koreanum. (A) Flowering branches. (B) Upper corolla lobes and stamens. (C) Developing flowers. (D) Mature flower. (E) Calyx and style. (F) Lower leaf. (G–H) Upper bract-like leaves. (I–J) Capsules. (K) Seeds. All scale bars are 1 cm. Kim & Yun (2012).

M. koreanum was found at a single location on Somaemul-do Island, in a pine forest on a mountain slope. Only about 60 plants were found. Kim & Yun recommend that this site be preserved to protect the species.

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