Checking out unusual botany

Credit: Cheryl Lowe

Discovering the unusual Orobanche californica on Whidbey Island

I saw a most unusual plant while hiking on Whidbey Island on the weekend, near a permanent brackish lagoon on the west side of the island.

This little cluster of flowers is Orobanche californica. It is a parasitic plant that does not have chlorophyll, so it cannot photosynthesize. Instead it gets nutrients via its roots by tapping into a neighbouring and different type of plant. It is in its own plant family, the Orobanchaceae.