, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 401–406 | Cite as

The host range and selectivity of a parasitic plant: Rhinanthus minor L.

  • C. C. Gibson
  • A. R. Watkinson
Original Papers


Rhinanthus minor (Yellow-rattle) is a widespread hemiparasitic plant of grassland habitats throughout Britain. Association analysis of the dune vegetation at Holme-next-the-Sea in eastern England revealed only two potential host plants through positive association. In contrast direct examination of the root systems revealed haustorial connections with 20 host species. The number of species parasitized by one plant ranged from one to seven. Data from another four sites in Britain and one in central Europe indicate that the natural host range of R. minor encompasses at least 50 species from 18 families with 22% in the Leguminosae and 30% in the Gramineae. Comparison of the number of haustorial connections made to each species with the abundance of roots in the soil shows that R. minor is a highly selective parasite, but that the selectivity is not consistent between populations or between plants from different parts of the same population. The reasons for host selectivity are discussed.

Key words

Rhinanthus Hemiparasitism Host selectivity 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. C. Gibson
    • 1
  • A. R. Watkinson
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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