Ivy Broomrape; Orobanche hederae

There are lots of Broomrape species but they are all parasitic, so Ivy Broomrape lives on Ivy, its roots form a union with the roots of Ivy and draw water and nutrients from the Ivy plant. Thus it does not have any chlorophyll. It does still have rudimentary leaves up the stem but these are just light brown in colour.

It is quite a rare plant and I was struggling to find any, so what I do in these cases is to look it up in the records of the local wildlife trust. I live on the border between Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire ( between the Forest of Dean and the Wye valley) Thus I have two local wild life trusts to seek information from.  I found that Ivy Broomrape was recorded as growing around the walls of Chepstow Castle. Normally it is found by sea cliffs in SW England and Wales. Recently I came across a few ratty specimens on the cliffs near Tenby.

Today (8th of Set 2018) I was in Chepstow so I had a wander round the perimeter of the castle and  quite a lot of ivy is living there. I also found a few specimens of Ivy Broomrape growing at the far end of the castle. I did not have my camera with me, it was in the car and parked some way away in the Tesco’s car park. I decided not to bother going all the way back to the car to collect my camera, partly because it was threatening to rain and partly because in September the Ivy Broomrape are past their best and a bit dried up and brown.

However on my way back to the car I passed a little church I think it is the Priory Church of Saint Mary. This was also blessed with lots of Ivy and it had hundreds of Ivy Broomrape plants. So the camera was collected and I returned to take these photos.

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Now I know exactly where they are I will return next year in June/July and get some photos of the flowers when they are fresh and not dried up. Then the stalk is a purple colour and the petals are a more cream colour. Below is a photo of a Broomrape which I took some years ago in France. As you can see much of the flower spike is still in bud, the flowers which have opened have a hint of lilac colour so I am not sure which species this is. There are some Yarrow leaves in the foreground and there is a species of Broomrape that parasitises Yarrow.  However Yarrow Broomrape has very purple flowers so I do not think it is that one. Could possibly be one called Greater Broomrape which lives on Broom and Gorse.

Other Broomrapes are Common Broomrape, Knapweed Broomrape, Thyme Broomrape, Thistle Broomrape and Bedstraw Broomrape.  In Europe there are many more, in fact there is a book specifically about this group of plants. There is also quite a good web site about British Broomrapes.






Finally just to finish off the account of my encounters with Broomrape in Chepstow, on my way back to the Tesco car park, there was a large number of police and ambulance people gathered just up from the church. One officer saw me with my camera and asked if I was from the South Wales Argos.   I explained what I had been up to and they were quite disappointed. They wanted their photo taken. The cause of their presence was a car that had half knocked down a lamp post and it was still live and occasionally producing sparks.

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4 thoughts on “Ivy Broomrape; Orobanche hederae

  1. Fascinating – Thank you.


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