Sunday, 11 August 2013

Parasite

At this time of year, the grasslands around our part of the countryside begins to flush with a pinkish, red colour associated with a diminutive flower, belonging to the Red Bartsia (Odontites vernus).
This attractive plant is a member of the Broomrape family which labours under the name of
Orobanchaceae.  Like many other members of this family, the Red Bartsia is a semi-parasitic plant, taking some (but not all) of its nutrient from the roots of the other plants which it grows among.  It is not only the flowers which are red in colour.  The stems and leaves too, are flushed with red or pink, which gives the whole plant a blushing appearance.
The stems are rather square in cross section, the whole plant is covered with small hairs and it can feel 'sticky' to the touch.  Along with the Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor), the Red Bartsia has a profound effect on grasslands, helping to keep the grasses under control and thus allowing many other plants to get a foothold and maintain the diversity which makes meadows so rich.
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