, Volume 146, Issue 2, pp 227–233 | Cite as

Is palatability of a root-hemiparasitic plant influenced by its host species?

  • Martin Schädler
  • Mareike Roeder
  • Roland Brandl
  • Diethart Matthies
Plant Animal Interactions


Palatability of parasitic plants may be influenced by their host species, because the parasites take up nutrients and secondary compounds from the hosts. If parasitic plants acquired the full spectrum of secondary compounds from their host, one would expect a correlation between host and parasite palatability. We examined the palatability of leaves of the root-hemiparasite Melampyrum arvense grown with different host plants and the palatability of these host plants for two generalist herbivores, the caterpillar of Spodoptera littoralis and the slug Arion lusitanicus. We used 19 species of host plants from 11 families that are known to contain a wide spectrum of anti-herbivore compounds. Growth of M. arvense was strongly influenced by the host species. The palatability of the individual host species for the two herbivores differed strongly. Both A. lusitanicus and S. littoralis discriminated also between hemiparasites grown with different host plants. There was no correlation between the palatability of a host species and that of the parasites grown on that host, i.e., hemiparasites grown on palatable host species were not more palatable than those grown on unpalatable hosts. We suggest an interacting pattern of specific effects of chemical anti-herbivore defences and indirect effects of the hosts on herbivores through effects on growth and tissue quality of the parasites.


Melampyrum arvense Herbivory Host–parasite interactions Secondary compounds 



We thank Rainer Peilstöcker for technical support, and Ute Becker and Henrik Berg for helpful comments during the study. The comments of the three anonymous referees greatly improved the manuscript. We thank the Botanical Garden of the University of Marburg for providing seeds of the studied species.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Schädler
    • 1
  • Mareike Roeder
    • 2
  • Roland Brandl
    • 1
  • Diethart Matthies
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Animal Ecology, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of MarburgMarburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Plant Ecology, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of MarburgMarburgGermany

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