Journal Article

Host Range and Selectivity of the Hemiparasitic Plant <i>Thesium chinense</i> (Santalaceae)

Kenji Suetsugu, Atsushi Kawakita and Makoto Kato

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 102, issue 1, pages 49-55
Published in print July 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online May 2008 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Host Range and Selectivity of the Hemiparasitic Plant Thesium chinense (Santalaceae)

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

Thesium chinense is a hemiparasitic plant that is common in grassland habitats of eastern Asia. Although the physiology of Thesium has been well studied in attempts to control its weedy habit, there have been few ecological investigations of its parasitic life history. Thesium chinense is thought to parasitize species of Poaceae, but evidence remains circumstantial.


A vegetation survey was conducted to test whether any plant species occurs significantly more often in plots with T. chinense than expected. In addition, haustorial connections were examined directly by excavating the roots and post-attachment host selectivity was evaluated by comparing the observed numbers of haustoria on different hosts against those expected according to the relative below-ground biomass. Haustorium sizes were also compared among host species.

Key Results

Only two of the 38 species recorded, Lespedeza juncea and Eragrostis curvula, occurred more often in plots with Thesium than expected. In contrast to this, T. chinense parasitized 22 plant species in 11 families, corresponding to 57·9 % of plant species found at the study site. Haustoria were non-randomly distributed among host species, suggesting that there is some post-attachment host selectivity. Thesium chinense generally preferred the Poaceae, although haustoria formed on the Fabaceae were larger than those on other hosts.


This is the first quantitative investigation of the host range and selectivity of hemiparasitic plants of the Santalales. The preference for Fabaceae as hosts may be linked to the greater nutrient availability in these nitrogen-fixing plants.

Keywords: Haustorium; hemiparasite; host range; host selectivity; Santalaceae; Thesium chinense

Journal Article.  4491 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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