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Thyme Broomrape

Orobanche alba

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
25 centimetres tall
Grassland, heathland, rocky places, seaside.

Yellow, 2 petals
The tubular flowers are yellowish-white and tinged reddish-purple, measuring between 1.5 and 2cm in size. Sometimes the flowers are white. The stamens are hairy below and the stigmas are tinged red. The flower bracts are shorter than the flowers themselves. The upper lip of the flower is shallowly notched. The lower lip is 3-lobed.
The fruit is a capsule.
There are no leaves. Instead Thyme Broomrape has scales. The stems are yellowish-white, tinged red or purple (like the flowers). Thyme Broomrape is also covered in many short, downy hairs.
Thyme Broomrape is fragrant.
Other Names:
Red Broomrape, White Broomrape.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Orobanche alba, also known as the white 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. alba 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. alba 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.


Thyme Broomrape (Orobanche alba) is a parasitic plant that belongs to the Orobanchaceae family. This plant species is known for its ability to parasitize the roots of other plants, particularly those belonging to the Lamiaceae family such as thyme, rosemary, and sage.

Thyme broomrape is an annual plant that grows up to 30 cm in height. It has a stem that is either simple or branched, and it produces yellow, tubular flowers that are 2-3 cm long. The flowers of this plant species are hermaphroditic and are typically pollinated by insects, such as bees and butterflies.

The plant is native to Mediterranean regions, but it can now be found in other parts of the world, including Asia and Europe. In these regions, it can be a significant problem for agricultural crops, as it competes with the host plant for water and nutrients. This can result in reduced growth and yield of the host plant.

Thyme broomrape can be controlled through various means, including cultural practices such as crop rotation and the use of mulches, as well as chemical methods such as herbicides. However, it is important to use these methods carefully and in accordance with local regulations, as they may have unintended effects on other plants and the environment.

Thyme broomrape is a fascinating plant species that has a unique relationship with other plants. While it is harmful to its host plants, it also plays an important role in the ecosystem. For example, it provides a habitat and food source for insects, such as bees and butterflies, that are essential for pollination and maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.

In traditional medicine, the roots of thyme broomrape have been used for various purposes, including the treatment of wounds, respiratory problems, and skin conditions. However, it is important to note that the plant is also toxic, and consuming it can cause serious health problems, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and even death.

In addition to its impact on agriculture, thyme broom rape is also considered to be an invasive species in some parts of the world, as it can outcompete native plant species and alter the local ecosystem. To prevent the spread of this species and its negative effects, it is important to take measures to control its growth and prevent its introduction into new areas.

Thyme broomrape is also of interest to scientists and researchers due to its unique mode of parasitic behavior. This plant is unable to produce chlorophyll, the pigment that allows plants to photosynthesize and produce their own food. As a result, it relies on its host plant for nutrients, water, and energy.

The plant has evolved specialized structures, such as haustoria, which are root-like structures that penetrate the host plant's roots and allow the plant to absorb water and nutrients. This remarkable adaptation is just one of the many reasons why thyme broomrape is an important subject of study in botany and plant biology.

In addition to its parasitic behavior, thyme broom rape is also known for its ability to persist in areas with harsh environmental conditions, such as arid regions and disturbed habitats. This makes it a valuable model species for understanding the ecology and evolution of parasitic plants, as well as for developing strategies to manage and control its spread.

Thyme broom rape is also a valuable species for conservation biology, as it is a representative of a group of plants that are threatened and in decline in many parts of the world. Protecting and conserving this species, as well as its habitats, is important for maintaining the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet.

In conclusion, thyme broom rape is a unique and fascinating plant species that has much to offer in terms of our understanding of ecology, evolution, and the interactions between plants. By studying and protecting this species, we can gain valuable insights into the complexity of the natural world and the important role that plants play in it.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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