|Rhinanthus, Castle Hill National Nature Reserve in Sussex|
"New research has revealed that parasitic 'vampire' plants that attach onto and derive nutrients from another living plant could benefit the abundance and diversity of surrounding vegetation and animal life."
The Plant celebrity in the published article from the University of York in Great Britain is an annual root-hemiparasite of nutrient-poor grasslands called Rhinanthus minor or commonly known as Yellow Rattle. It is also found in permanent pastures, hay meadows, the drier parts of fens, flushes in lowland and upland grasslands, and on montane ledges; also on roadsides and waste ground. It's classified as what is known as a hemi-parasitic which means it draws nutrition from it's host, but also from Chlorophyll, just like other familiar better known hemi-parasitic plants who also have a host and draw nutrition from the sun through photosynthesis, the common Mistletoe. Life benefits from such associations which in our modern times have been discovered with Mistletoe and trees or shrubs. So too has great importance been discovered with the presence of Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) to the biodiversity of fields and meadows in not only holding back more aggressive plants which would proliferate in the absence of Yellow Rattle, but also the unexpected abundance of biodiverse populations of all manner of insects, [butterflies, snails, wasps, etc] animals and birds.
"Lead author, Professor Sue Hartley, of the Department of Biology at York and Director of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute, said “This was a really unexpected finding. Although hemi-parasites are known to increase the diversity of other plants in the community by suppressing the dominant species they parasitize and so allowing other plants to flourish, none of us predicted there would be such dramatic and positive impacts on other components of the grassland community."
“Rhinanthus minor (Yellow Rattle) increased the abundance of all sorts of animals including snails, woodlice, butterflies, wasps and spiders. This is an important finding for the conservation and management of these chalk grassland communities, which are exceptionally species rich but also rare and threatened.”Interestingly, many cattle ranchers and farmers with various grazing animals period generally are looking for a monoculture in fields and meadows where they place their animals. They want grasses and nothing more. But monoculture seems to be the desired human pursuit these days, especially with regards industrial agriculture backed by horrible science which discounts the benefits of biodiversity. They are ignorant of the fact that many of these other Forbes [noxious weeds in their warped opinion] have health benefits to their livestock. Great article about field biodiversity and it's importance, but again as a recap, not only do these and other plants suppress certain aggressive plants which would overwhelm the ecosystem with populations of dense grasses, but it opens the field up to other lifeforms which are important to ecosystem health overall.
"The changes induced in the plant community were consistent with previous studies of the impact of 'Yellow Rattle' - Rhinanthus minor, particularly in the suppression of grasses. However, the striking enhancement of invertebrate abundance across several trophic levels has not been recorded previously."
Hemiparasitic Plants of the Western United States
|Image: Sprouts Greenhouse, Landers Wyoming|
Indian Paintbrush Integra
(Castilleja integra/Artemesia frigida)
|Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja integra)|
|Image by Jeff Hapeman (2010)|
"A field of very large Purple Owl's Clover (Castilleja exserta var. exserta ) along California highway 58 in the foothills of the Temblor Range." - Jeff Hapeman
|image by Jay Beiler|
|image: Emmanuel Boulet (2002)|
If anything further arises as far as more information on this subject, I will come back and add to the post here
Further Reading References of Interest
The Population Dynamics and Community Ecology of Root Hemiparasitic Plants. The American naturalist, D. Smith
HOST SPECIES AFFECTS HERBIVORY, POLLINATION, AND REPRODUCTION IN EXPERIMENTS WITH PARASITIC CASTILLEJA