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 coralliformis
  3. Balanophora dioica
  4. Balanophora elongata
  5. Balanophora fungosa (ssp. fungosa)
  6. Balanophora indica
            Variety indica
    Vegetative Plants
    Male Plants
    Female Plants
  7. Balanophora hansenii
  8. Balanophora harlandii
    Male Plants Female Plants
  9. Balanophora involucrata
  10. Balanophora japonica (including, for now, B. nipponica)
  11. Balanophora latisepala
  12. 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
  13. Balanophora lowii
  14. Balanophora papuana
    Vegetative Plants
    Male and Female Plants Male Plants Female Plants
  15. Balanophora polyandra
  16. Balanophora reflexa
  17. Balanophora tobiracola (synonym B. wrightii)
  18. Balanophora wilderi
  19. Balanophora yakushimensis


  1. Chlamydophytum aphyllum


  1. Corynaea crassa


  1. Ditepalanthus malagasicus


Morphological features indicate this genus should be lumped into Helosis. Molecular data supporting this are lacking. See Eberwein and Weber 2004, Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 146: 513-517.

  1. Exorhopala ruficeps


  1. Helosis cayennensis


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


  1. Lathrophytum peckoltii


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


  1. Ombrophytum chilensis [note: photos labeled O. subterraneum. See Kuijt & Delprete (2019. Phytotaxa 420(4): 264)].
  2. Ombrophytum peruvianum
  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. New Molecular Data: Balanophoraceae is not one family!

The most comprehensive (in terms of taxon sampling and genes) molecular analysis of Santalales to date was reported in Su et al. (2015) - pdf file HERE.  From previous molecular phylogenetic work in the Nickrent lab, it was known that the three "Gondwanan" genera, Dactylanthus, Hachettea and Mystropetalon formed a clade and the remaining genera formed another clade. When these were analyzed together with all available genera in Santalales, "Balanophoraceae" was not monophyletic. Tests showed that placing these clades together was not statistically supported. You can visit the Mystropetalaceae page HERE.


Last updated: