Parasitic Plant Connection

Balanophoraceae Rich.

Family Description

Distribution Map

List of Genera



For a list of synonyms of Balanophora according to Hansen (1972, 1999), click HERE for the pdf file.

For a key to species of Balanophora according to Hansen (1972), click HERE for the pdf file.

  1. Balanophora abbreviata
  2. Balanophora dioica - no photos
  3. Balanophora elongata.
  4. Balanophora fungosa ssp. fungosa.
  5. Balanophora fungosa ssp. indica var. indica
    Vegetative Plants
    Male Plants
    Female Plants
  6. Balanophora fungosa ssp. indica var. minor
  7. Balanophora harlandii
    Male Plants Female Plants
  8. Balanophora involucrata
  9. Balanophora japonica
  10. Balanophora latisepala
  11. Balanophora laxiflora. Hansen has not published on the recently described taxon B. hongkongensis which occurs only in an extremely restricted area in Hong Kong. The plant was named by K. M. Lau, N. H. Li, and S. Y. Hu. [2003. Harvard Papers in Botany, 7 (2): 439-441]. These authors note that this taxon is very closely related to B. laxiflora and B. spicata. Note that Hansen considers B. spicata a synonym of B. laxiflora. The authors cite a few morphological characters that supposedly distinguish these species: the number of floral segments in the perianth and the presence of raised granules on the haustorial tuber. Balanophora honkongensis is described as having 4-9 segments, B. laxiflora 4-6, and B. spicata 6. Hansen clearly discussed the polymorphic nature of this character stating that B. laxiflora is 4-5-merous or 7-12-merous especially towards the proximal and distal parts of the inflorescence. Thus, the perianth segment ranges for both B. spicata and B. hongkongensis are clearly within the total range of B. laxiflora. With regard to surface features on the tuber, Hansen (1972) states: "I am of the opinion that far too much importance has been attached to the systematic value of the presence or absence of stellate warts and to the form of the surface cells of the tubers, as well as to the form of the actual tubers." Given that Lau et al. (2003) did not cite Hansen's 1972 monograph of Balanophora, an extremely serious omission, it is not clear whether they were unaware of it or chose to ignore it. I tend to agree with Hansen (1999) who stated "My purpose is, as it always was, to aim at a stable and lasting species delimitation. To reach this goal I have always tried to see how few taxa I could recognize, not how many."
    Male and Female Plants Male Plants
    Female Plants
  12. Balanophora lowii
  13. Balanophora papuana
    Vegetative Plants
    Male and Female Plants Male Plants Female Plants
  14. Balanophora polyandra - no photos
  15. Balanophora reflexa
    Vegetative Plants
    Male Plants Female Plants (none at present)
  16. Balanophora wilderi
  17. Balanophora wrightii
  18. Balanophora yuwanensis
  19. Balanophora sp.
    Photo. Link goes to PhytoImages. This Balanophora has some similarity to B. papuana, but the erect, branched tuber is not seen in other populations of that species. Mingan Mountains, Dingalan municipality, Aurora Province, Luzon Island, Philippines. Photos by Leonard Co.


  1. Chlamydophytum aphyllum


  1. Corynaea crassa


  1. Dactylanthus taylori


  1. Ditepalanthus malagasicus

Exorhopala (or should this be included within Helosis? See Eberwein and Weber 2004, Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 146: 513)

  1. Exorhopala ruficeps


  1. Hachettea austro-caledonica


  1. Helosis cayennensis


  1. Langsdorffia heterotepala
  2. Langsdorffia hypogaea
  3. Langsdorffia papuana


  1. Lathrophytum peckoltii


  1. Lophophytum leandrii
  2. Lophophytum mirabile
  3. Lophophytum weddellii


  1. Mystropetalon polemannii
  2. Mystropetalon thomii


  1. Ombrophytum peruvianum
  2. Ombrophytum subterraneum
  3. Ombrophytum violaceum
  4. Ombrophytum sp.


  1. Rhopalocnemis phalloides


  1. Sarcophyte sanguinea


  1. Scybalium depressum
  2. Scybalium fungiforme
  3. Scybalium glaziovii
  4. Scybalium jamaicense


  1. Thonningia sanguinea


1. Placement of Balanophoraceae among Flowering Plants

Determining the closest photosynthetic relatives of Balanophoraceae has long intrigued botanists. Recent molecular phylogenetic analyses point toward Santalales, the sandalwood order. See paper by Nickrent et al. (2005) in BMC Evolutionary Biology. For the full text online version, go HERE. The relationship with Santalales has also been recovered using B class floral homeotic genes. See abstract by Su and Hu (2008) HERE.

2. Infrafamilial Phylogeny of Balanophoraceae

Click HERE to see a tree generated using nuclear small-subunit (18S) rDNA sequences from 11 of the possible 17 genera of Balanophoraceae, with Amborella included as an outgroup. Bear in mind that this analysis was done before the closest photosynthetic relatives of Balanophoraceae were known (see BMC paper above). Thus, one should not interpret this tree as supporting a close relationship between Balanophoraceae and the most primitive flowering plant Amborella.

This tree shows a strong biogeographical signal, with the Neotropical taxa forming one clade that is derived from within the Paleotropical grade. The association of Dactylanthus and Hachettea follows traditional classifications (e.g. Dactylanthaceae sensu Takhtajan 1997), however, the additional association with Mystropetalon (Mystropetalaceae sensu Takhtajan 1997) is surprising. Despite the wide geographic separation (S. Africa, New Zealand, and New Caledonia), these data suggest an ancient southern hemisphere association that traces to ancestors on the Gondwanan landmass.


SIUC / College of Science / Parasitic Plant Connection / Balanophoraceae
Last updated: 21-July-14 / dln