Broomrapes are parasitic plants that are among the world’s worst crop weeds. They pose a serious threat to broadleaf grain and vegetable industries in Australia. Once established, broomrapes can reduce crop yields by up to 70%, threaten export markets and be extremely difficult to eradicate.
Broomrapes attach to the roots of broadleaf plants and extract all of their nutrient and water requirements from their host. In Australia, known host plants include canola, carrot, lettuce, tomato, capeweed, vetch and medics.
Branched broomrape (Orobanche ramosa) poses the greatest threat to Australian crops and is only known to occur as an isolated infestation in the Murray Bridge area of South Australia. No known infestations of branched broomrape occur in New South Wales (NSW).
Other species of concern are Egyptian broomrape (O. aegyptiaca), nodding broomrape (O. cernua var. cernua), crenate broomrape (O. crenata) and sunflower broomrape (O. cumana), none of which currently exist in Australia.
Native broomrape (O. cernua var. australiana) and another exotic, clover broomrape (O. minor), are present but not considered a problem.
Worldwide there are approximately 140 species of broomrape. Branched broomrape is native to southern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa and is considered a weed in its native range.
Five species of broomrape are major crop weeds throughout northern Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and America.
Broomrapes are annual plants that grow from seed and require a host plant to survive. After a broomrape seed germinates, the seedling’s roots attach to the roots of a host plant and the whole broomrape plant remains underground until its flowering stems emerge (about 6 weeks after germination). Flowering and seed set occurs within 2–3 weeks. One plant can produce thousands of seeds per year which can lay dormant in the soil for many years.
Broomrape seed can be spread by wind, livestock, vehicles, clothing, flood waters and contaminated fodder, seed and soil.
A characteristic of all broomrapes is they contain no chlorophyll and only the flowering stem can be seen above the ground.
2009 edition prepared by Rachele Osmond; 2013 edition reviewed by Michael Michelmore; edited by Elissa van Oosterhout.
Faithfull I & McLaren D (2004) Branched broomrape – identification: State prohibited weed. Landcare Note LC0272. State of Victoria, Department of Sustainability and Environment
Hosking JR, Sainty GR, Jacobs SWL & Dellow LL (in prep) The Australian WeedBOOK
If you suspect you have found any form of broomrape, immediately contact a local council weeds officer who will assist with identification, removal and eradication.
All species in the Orobanche genus are declared except the native O. cernua variety australiana and O. minor
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State Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant