Balanophora fungosa is a parasitic plant growing on the roots of rainforest plants. The flowering structure is shaped like a toadstool but consists of a globe covered with thousands of tiny female flowers. The globe is surrounded at its base by a much smaller number of male flowers. In flower, the plant emits an odour resembling that of mice.
Like other members of its genus, B. fungosa is holoparasitic and contains no chlorophyll. The aerial parts of the plant consist of a hard, irregularly shaped tuber from which the flower-bearing structures extend. The leaves are scale–like, pale cream in colour from 8–30 mm long, 7–20 mm wide and more or less stem clasping.
The plant is monoecious, bearing both pistillate (female) and staminate (male) flowers. Thousands of minute female flowers cover a globe-shaped structure 1.5–2 cm in diameter. The styles are less than 1.0 mm long. About 20 male flowers are arranged around the base of the globe, each about 3–5 mm in diameter with a pedicel about 5-6 mm long and are covered with powdery white pollen.
Taxonomy and naming
There are two subspecies–
- Balanophora fungosa J.R.Forst. & G.Forst. subsp. fungosa
- Balanophora fungosa subsp. indica J.R.Forst. & G.Forst. var. indica
Distribution and habitat
B. fungosa is found in coastal forests from near sea level to 900 m in Australia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Ryukyu Islands, New Guinea, the Philippines, some Pacific Islands and Cambodia. In Australia it occurs in Queensland from near the border with New South Wales to Cape York.
Twelve species of plant in eight families are known to be hosts to B. fungosa var. indica including some of those in the genera Syzygium, Olea and Rapanea. The plant is sometimes a weed in coffee and tea plantations. 
Numerous small animals visit the flowers, including ants, springtails, flies, a moth of the family noctuidae, and even rats, which appear to be attracted by the smell. Two beetle species of the genus Lasiodactylus, a moth of the family Pyralidae and a moth of the family Tipulidae use the bracts at the base of the flowers as a breeding site.
Use as medicine
- "Balanophora fungosa". BSA Parasitic Plant Pages. St. Louis, MO: Botanical Society of America. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- Hyland, B. P. M.; Whiffin, T.; Zich, F. A. et al. (Dec 2010). "Factsheet – Balanophora fungosa". Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants. Edition 6.1, online version [RFK 6.1]. Cairns, Australia: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), through its Division of Plant Industry; the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research; the Australian Tropical Herbarium, James Cook University. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- Kuijt, Job; Hansen, Bertel. The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants Volume XII. Springer. p. 206. ISBN 978-3-319-09295-9.
- "Flora of China". Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Kim, Joo Hwan; Won, Hyosig (4 November 2013). "Identification of Plant Host Species of Balanophora fungosa var. indica from Phnom Bokor National Park of Cambodia using DNA barcoding techniquein". Korean Journal of Plant Taxonomy 43 (4): 252–262. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- Kannan, R.; Babu, U.V. (September 2011). "Pharmacognostical Studies on Balanophora fungosa – a Negative Listed Plant". Ancient Science of Life 31 (1): 22–25.
- Irvine, Anthony K.; Armstrong, Joseph E. (1991). "Beetle Pollination in Tropical Forests of Australia". In K.S. Bawa, M. Hadle. Reproductive Ecology of Tropical Forest Plants. CRC Press. p. 143. ISBN 9781850702689.
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