Oh no! We have a parasite!

Not personally, you’ll be relieved to hear…

Although if I had one, I’d probably be less free with the information… No, the parasite is in the garden. A while ago, I was puzzled to notice some odd-looking leaves on a branch of my Bankok Rose (Mussaenda philippica ‘Calcutta Sunset’). They were linear and thin instead of lanceolate. But it wasn’t of such interest that I had to do something about it.

Today, however, I was pulling weeds in the front flower bed, as I usually do when I go and check the mailbox. This time, the puzzle had reached much greater, and more interesting, proportions. Well, see for yourself. Above is the Bankok Rose. Dangling down there with its leaves and flowers all completely wrong, is a parasite. An interloper. To be exact, a hemiparasite:

Hemiparasite – a plant parasitic under natural conditions, but photosynthetic to some degree. Hemiparasites may obtain only water and mineral nutrients from the host plant; many obtain at least part of their organic nutrients from the host as well. (Wikipedia)

It’s the Australian native Orange Mistletoe, Dendrophthoe glabrescens, making itself very much at home on a branch of the Mussaenda. It’s not going to kill the Bankok Rose, or I’d be whipping it off there quick smart, but it is getting a free meal ticket and a place in the sun. Speaking of which, it’s supposed to flower October to January, but because of the dry weather we had at the end of last year and over Christmas, it has been retarded and is only now bursting into quite lovely and spectacular flowers. It usually prefers a bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.), I believe, but failing that has found itself a suitable alternative.

Apart from being quite pretty, it’s also an important food plant for the larvae of at least 10 species of Queensland butterflies, including the marvellously-named Golden, Black and Scarlet Jezebels and the Amethyst and Silky Jewels.

So I’ll be leaving it well alone, then.

28 thoughts on “Oh no! We have a parasite!

  1. anne54 says:

    That’s very exciting, especially if it is a host for such beautiful creatures as butterflies!

  2. So, really a beneficial parasite then? And it’s really interesting to boot!

    • katechiconi says:

      Beneficial to butterflies, but perhaps not so much to the poor Bankok Rose… Never mind, the Mistletoe isn’t very large yet so it can’t be taking too much away. As a former Pom, I find the idea of a bright orange-yellow mistletoe that flowers in the summer a bit odd; in the UK it’s a winter plant with white pearly berries, traditionally hung in the house at Christmas for people to kiss under!

  3. It’s quite lovely, I’m glad you’re able to leave it where it is. It deserves a bit of slack after all the effort it went to to get there… (plants never cease to amaze me with their ingenuity) 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      I reckon it was a bird that brought the original seed and left it where it could take root on the branch. The flowers are really interesting, too, so I agree, it’s great I don’t have to chop it out.

  4. cedar51 says:

    we have a similar drastic parasite here (In New Zealand) the “moth plant” – a creeper, that possibly doesn’t kill the host or sometimes there isn’t a host – but it spreads and I understand they are not keen (they being plant authorities) of it in the bush/forest…it’s extremely hard to eradicate, there is one out back here, it’s somehow found a way to come up again! And it’s not with a host, other than a strong wooden fence…

    • katechiconi says:

      That’s impressively resilient! I think this one is a tribute to the survival skills of the native flora (Mistletoe) vs the import (Bankok Rose). And too, I now know it’s there and if it shows signs of megalomania I shall *deal* with it 🙂

  5. Pretty and beneficial 👍 I’m glad it’s staying, and not causing too much damage to its lovely host.

    • katechiconi says:

      A couple of the smallest twigs on either side of the branch have died back, but the remainder of the branch looks good. Stuff like this, it’s always worth doing the homework – it could so easily have been a sandpaper fig, for example.

  6. nanacathy2 says:

    It seems there are worse things to have, seeing as how it is pretty and loved by butterflies. For a horrible moment I thought you had a canine problem.

    • katechiconi says:

      There are far worse plant parasites here! Mouse is thankfully extremely well protected against every nasty we’ve been able to think of, and the only internal problems he’s ever likely to have is indigestion from scoffing too fast!

  7. tialys says:

    I’d rather have your pretty, useful parasite than the one I found yesterday morning on one of the cats – a tick to be precise. I usually don’t kill any insects, not flies, wasps and certainly not spiders but ticks get brutal treatment from me – that one ended up on the fire. Apparently there’s a big tick problem here at the moment – even more than usual – so I handed over vast sums of money to the vet yesterday to keep the anti flea and tick treatment up to date. Yuk!

    • katechiconi says:

      We have a constant and severe tick problem here, with paralysis ticks being dreadfully common. Mouse gets his Bravecto topical drops conscientiously and on the dot. BTW, the current thinking here with ticks is that you use that freeze-off treatment for warts or skin tags to freeze the little buggers, rather than trying to prise them out or poison them with spot treatments.

      • tialys says:

        My dogs were taking Bravecto every 12 weeks but I’ve taken one of them off it as he occasionally has seizures and they can be exacerbated by Bravecto, apparently. He, and the cats, get given another product monthly.
        I do have some tick tweezers which I use if I come across one trying to burrow into the animal’s skin then I crack it with my nail and fling the corpse in the fire, just to make sure. However, with five cats (one very long haired) and two dogs, I couldn’t possibly rely on spotting every one before they attach and start feeding so poison it is. An expensive business but better to be safe.

      • katechiconi says:

        I’m very lucky – Mouse’s short, flat, shiny coat shows up everything. As you say, though, better to be safe, especially with paralysis ticks about.

  8. Your mistletoe is definitely preferrable to ticks! Enjoy the butterflies when they emerge as its pay for the meal ticket.

  9. knettycraft says:

    What a lovely parasite 😊… so interesting. Never heard of this plant and just looked it up.

  10. Sharon says:

    yes leave it alone ~ never heard of so many of your plants and this one sounds like it has a great purpose even if it is considered a parasite ❤

  11. Another lesson in botany today. Thanks. Anything you can do to save those butterflies, I’m 100% behind.

  12. rutigt says:

    As long as they don´t do any damage, I guess it is okey 🙂

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