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Oxtongue Broomrape

Orobanche picridis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Cliffs, seaside.

White, 5 petals
Yellowish-white, purple-veined, downy flowers. Purple stamens.
The fruit is an egg-shaped capsule.
The green leaves are oblong or lance-shaped and toothed. The stems are purple-tinged. Oxtongue Broomrape is parasitic on Bristly Oxtongue (Helminthotheca echioides) and Hawkweed Oxtongue (Picris hieracioides).
Other Names:
Field Broomrape.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Orobanche picridis, also known as the field broomrape, is a species of parasitic plant in the family Orobanchaceae. It is native to Europe and is commonly found in grassland, meadows, and pastures. O. picridis is a rootless plant that derives its nutrients from the roots of other plants, often causing significant damage to the host plant. It has small, yellow or white flowers that bloom in the summer and is known for its ability to survive in dry, nutrient-poor soil. O. picridis is a major agricultural pest in some areas and is difficult to control due to its ability to regenerate from small fragments of its root system. It is particularly problematic for farmers growing vegetables and cereals, as it can reduce crop yields significantly.


Oxtongue Broomrape (Orobanche picridis) is a parasitic plant that belongs to the Orobanchaceae family. It is a root parasite, meaning it obtains its nutrients and water from the roots of other plants.

The plant is native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, but has also been introduced to North America. It can be found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, meadows, and forest margins.

Oxtongue Broomrape is a very distinctive plant, with a stem that is yellowish-green and can reach up to 40 cm in height. It produces clusters of yellow or orange flowers that are often mistaken for wildflowers. The plant has no chlorophyll, so it cannot produce its own food through photosynthesis.

Oxtongue Broomrape is most commonly found in association with members of the pea family (Fabaceae), such as clovers, alfalfa, and vetch. It has a close relationship with its host plant, and is able to detect its presence through chemical signals released by the roots. Once it has attached itself to the host plant, it begins to extract nutrients and water from the host's roots.

One of the main challenges of controlling Oxtongue Broomrape is its ability to remain dormant for several years, making it difficult to eliminate completely. The plant can also spread quickly, as its seeds can remain viable for several years and are easily transported by wind, water, or animals.

In addition to its impact on its host plants, Oxtongue Broomrape is also considered a threat to agricultural crops. The plant can reduce the growth and productivity of crops such as clover, alfalfa, and vetch. This can have a significant economic impact on farmers, as well as on the environment, as it can reduce the overall biomass of the area and disrupt natural habitats.

There are several management strategies that can be used to control Oxtongue Broomrape. One approach is to prevent the spread of the plant by removing it as soon as it is detected. This can be done manually or through the use of herbicides. It is important to remove the entire plant, including the roots, to prevent it from re-emerging.

Another approach is to use resistant cultivars of the host plants. For example, clovers and alfalfa that are resistant to Oxtongue Broomrape can be grown instead of susceptible varieties. This reduces the ability of the parasite to establish itself on the host plant and reduces its impact on the crop.

In addition, crop rotation can also be used as a management strategy. By rotating crops, farmers can reduce the number of opportunities for Oxtongue Broomrape to establish itself and reduce its impact on their crops.

In conclusion, Oxtongue Broomrape is a unique and fascinating parasitic plant that is also a significant threat to agriculture and the environment. To reduce its impact, it is important to be aware of its presence and to use a combination of management strategies, including removing the plant, using resistant cultivars, and practicing crop rotation.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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