Description: Herbaceous twiners with thread-like stems containing chlorophyll, hemiparasitic on herbs, shrubs or trees. A single stem may parasitize many different host species (including itself), the xylem of the parasite connecting with the xylem of the host by means of haustoria. Stems often yellowish green to red-green with leaves reduced to scales.
Inflorescences axillary, usually spikes, racemes or panicles, often reduced to heads. Flowers bisexual, actinomorphic, small. Perianth segments 6, in 2 whorls, whitish. Stamens 9 in 3 whorls, with an inner whorl of 3 staminodes. Ovary superior.
Drupe surrounded by an expanded receptacle to form a succulent outer layer; false 'fruit' berry-like, usually shrinks by c. 2 mm diam. on drying.
Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 17 species, mainly tropical & subtropical regions. Australia: 14 species, all States.
This genus is often placed in its own family, the Cassythaceae.
Text by G. J. Harden
Taxa not yet included in identification key
| ||Key to the species|| |
|1||Plant glabrous; bracts and sepals neither ciliate nor fimbriate||Cassytha glabella|
|Plants pubescent, but often glabrescent with age, and/or bracts and sepals ciliate or fimbriate||2|
|2||Fruit pubescent, sometimes sparsely so; drying grey-black||Cassytha pubescens|
|Fruit glabrous or glabrescent; drying black or dark green to brown, not grey-black|
Back to 1
|3||Fruit 10–15 mm diam., globose||Cassytha melantha|
|Fruit less than 10 mm diam. and less than 8 mm long; obovoid, ovoid or globose|
Back to 2
|4||Flowers and fruits sessile in spikes||Cassytha filiformis|
|Flowers and fruits stalked in simple or branched racemes or clustered in heads|
Back to 3