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.