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Genus Cassytha Family Lauraceae

Description: Herbaceous twiners with thread-like stems containing chlorophyll, hemiparasitic on herbs, shrubs or trees. A single stem may parasitize many different host species (including itself), the xylem of the parasite connecting with the xylem of the host by means of haustoria. Stems often yellowish green to red-green with leaves reduced to scales.

Inflorescences axillary, usually spikes, racemes or panicles, often reduced to heads. Flowers bisexual, actinomorphic, small. Perianth segments 6, in 2 whorls, whitish. Stamens 9 in 3 whorls, with an inner whorl of 3 staminodes. Ovary superior.

Drupe surrounded by an expanded receptacle to form a succulent outer layer; false 'fruit' berry-like, usually shrinks by c. 2 mm diam. on drying.


Photo © ANBG

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 17 species, mainly tropical & subtropical regions. Australia: 14 species, all States.

This genus is often placed in its own family, the Cassythaceae.

Text by G. J. Harden
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Cassytha paniculata,    Cassytha phaeolasia

 Key to the species 
1Plant glabrous; bracts and sepals neither ciliate nor fimbriateCassytha glabella
Plants pubescent, but often glabrescent with age, and/or bracts and sepals ciliate or fimbriate2
2Fruit pubescent, sometimes sparsely so; drying grey-blackCassytha pubescens
Fruit glabrous or glabrescent; drying black or dark green to brown, not grey-black
                       Back to 1
3
3Fruit 10–15 mm diam., globoseCassytha melantha
Fruit less than 10 mm diam. and less than 8 mm long; obovoid, ovoid or globose
                       Back to 2
4
4Flowers and fruits sessile in spikesCassytha filiformis
Flowers and fruits stalked in simple or branched racemes or clustered in heads
                       Back to 3
Cassytha racemosa

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