Monday, April 25, 2011

Local Plant Research

Orobanche riparia- **
You don't have to leave Springfield to find interesting research on newly described plants.  Dr. Turner Collins, professor emeritus at Evangel University described a new species of a fascinating genus of plants.  And I learned about it locally as well, in the Friends of the Garden Newsletter!

Dr. Collins has been researching Orobanche riparia for 40 years and recently confirmed that it differed from O. ludovicana in an article from the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.  As described in the article by George Freeman, editor of Greene Magazine,*:
"Collins discovered the differences in these plant 'cousins' in 1970, but DNA confirmation came only recently.  You may be asking, "So what?"  It is the same question asked all too often about rare species, often too late. The answer may come from Chinese reseachers who are doing cancer research on the various seeds of Orobanchaceae in its many forms."
This is the type of plant that could disappear without ever providing any possible medical benefits it possessed.  It lacks chlorophyll and can grow in dense stands of other riparian plants, hidden from view.  "How does it get by without sun, you ask?"  That is what makes it so interesting!  Its reproduction depends on its association with several plants, especially Giant Ragweed.  (Yes, that giant ragweed!)  The genus of Orobanche, common name Broomrape contains over 200 individual species.  They are all parasitic, obtaining their energy from other plants.
"As they have no chlorophyll, they are totally dependent on other plants for nutrients.  Broomrape seeds remain dormant in the soil, often for many years, until stimulated to germinate by certain compounds produced by living plant roots.  Broomrape seedlings put out a root-like growth, which attaches to the roots of nearby hosts.  Once attached to a host, the broomrape robs its host of water and nutrients."  Wikipedia
Jim McCormac has a very enjoyable description of a search for O. riparia  including a great set of pictures on his blog.

Greene Magazine is entering its third year of publication.  It contains the FOG Newsletter in each issue.  It is available at the Botanical Center at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park.  It comes by mail for free with a Membership in our MN Partner organization, Friends of the Garden.

**Picture from confluence of Great Miami River with Ohio River, Hamilton Co., Ohio, USA, photo.  Jim McCormac 04.09.2010

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you - interesting plants are everywhere! I've found a few myself and I'd love if you would take a look at them and tell me what you think!

    Albrecht Redoute