The Carnivorous Plant FAQ Field Trip Report -

Western Australia in 2007

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Kissing and sucking:
We continued on our tour, leaving the main highway to travel on a network of roads that took us through sparse bush with soils that ranged from red (blame the laterite) to blinding white (due to quartz sand). Western grey kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus subsp. melanops) bounded through the bush.

This is Nuytsia floribunda, a free standing tree that can reach a height of 10 meters. It is in the Loranthaceae, a family of parasitic plants. Like a vampire, Nuytsia sucks fluids and nutrients from its host. It is not at all finicky in its tastes, and will happily feed on any other tree, shrub, and even grass that its roots can find. Note that Nuytsia has green leaves, and so produces at least some of its own food via photosynthesis.

Other plants in the Loranthaceae include the mistletoes, which is commonly associated with the Christmas holiday season when (at least in the USA), "standing under the mistletoe" is considered adequate excuse for a target for being kissed. (Although I doubt this would stand up in court as an excuse for sexual harassment charges.) A common name for Nuytsia floribunda is Christmas tree because it becomes covered with very pretty orange inflorescences during December, which of course is summer in Australia.

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Revised: December 2007
©Barry Rice, 2005