Parasitic Plant

Definition - What does Parasitic Plant mean?

A parasitic plant is one that survives at the expense of another, often living and growing on and over the host plant, while siphoning off the other plant’s nutrients and water, and sometimes blocking access to sunlight.

MaximumYield explains Parasitic Plant

A parasite is an organism that has evolved to live off another organism. For instance, tapeworms are parasites that have evolved to live within the bowels of a host animal, feeding on the host animal’s energy stores and growing within their body. Parasitism is not limited to insects and animals – plants get into the act, too.

A parasitic plant is any plant that has evolved to live off another plant. These plants infest the host, sending tendrils or runners into the tissues of the host in order to extract nutrients and moisture. In severe cases, parasitic plants can cause the death and collapse of their host plant, but this is not always the case. Ultimately, this would cause the parasite plant to fail, as successful parasites are those that are able to keep their hosts alive for longer periods, thereby prolonging their own lifespan and breeding ability.

There are many examples of parasitic plants with which you might be familiar, but perhaps the best illustration is mistletoe. Long a holiday tradition, mistletoe lives off its host. However, mistletoe is actually a hemi-parasite, because it also creates its own energy through photosynthesis. The birds’ nest orchid and corpse flower are examples of other parasitic plants, as is dodder. In fact, there are over 4,000 identified species of parasitic plants, most of which are flowering plants.

Ultimately, parasitic plants do not usually threaten food or flower gardens, as they are specialized to live on plants that humans generally do not grow for food or beauty, with the exception of dodder, which can quickly overtake a garden.

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