Folia Geobotanica

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 407–424 | Cite as

Interactions of the Hemiparasitic Species Rhinanthus minor with its Host Plant Community at Two Nutrient Levels

  • Ondřej MudrákEmail author
  • Jan Lepš


For root hemiparasites, host plants are both the source of water and nutrients below-ground, but competitors for light above-ground. Hemiparasites can reduce host biomass, and in this way considerably affect the whole plant community. To investigate these effects, we carried out two experiments in an oligotrophic meadow with a native population of Rhinanthus minor. In the first experiment, removal of R. minor was combined with fertilization in a factorial design, and in the second one, we manipulated R. minor density by thinning. The presence of R. minor decreased the biomass of its host community, mostly by suppressing grasses. In this way, the species was able to counterbalance the effect of fertilization, which increased community biomass and in particular that of grasses. Neither the presence of R. minor nor fertilization affected the total number of species or the Shannon-Wiener diversity index (H’) of the host community. However, H’ of grasses was higher and H’ of forbs (non-leguminous dicots) was lower in the presence of R. minor. Reduction of grasses by R. minor favored mainly the dominant forb Plantago lanceolata, which partly acquired the role of a competitive dominant. Effects of R. minor on community diversity seem to be highly dependent on the relative sensitivities of dominant and subordinate species. Fertilization increased the mortality of seedlings, resulting in a lower number of flowering plants. However, surviving individuals on average produced more flowers. Thinning resulted in lower mortality of R. minor plants. This indicates that intraspecific competition in R. minor populations results in negative density dependence.


Community structure Competition Density dependence Manipulative experiment Root hemiparasite Species diversity 



The research was supported by grants GAAV IAA601410805, AV0Z60660521, AV0Z60050516, and MSMT 6007665801. We are extremely grateful to Diethar Matthies and Renate Wesselingh for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. We also thank Dr. Keith Edwards for improving the language.


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Copyright information

© Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  2. 2.Section of Plant Ecology, Institute of BotanyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicTřeboňCzech Republic
  3. 3.Institute of Entomology, Biology CenterAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  4. 4.Institute of Soil Biology, Biology CenterAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic

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