Cytinus visseri, commonly known as the Northern vampire cup, is a holoparasitic flowering plant in the family Cytinaceae. This flower favorably interacts with another plant, Helichrysum reflexum, that is a woody shrub in South Africa.
This flower was first discovered by Johann Visser but he was unable to name it himself due to his untimely passing. But after recognition of his discovery, the species was officially named after him by Prix Burgoyne.
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Habitat and ecology
Cytinus visseri is an erect, perennial, and a dioecious species. It lacks a true root system but forms endophytic cells to attach to the host and burst out of the host’s primordium bearing red flowers at its tip. They can grow up to 30-120mm high with seed size of 0.2 – 0.4 mm long. The members of Cytinus are not host-specific parasites and are seen to favorably interact with members from the Asteraceae family. However the flower may interact with other woody shrub taxa. C. visseri often interacts with H. reflexum, a plant that belongs to the Asteraceae family. When H. reflexum is infected, it is rarely seen that more than one C. visseri infects the same host plant. They are commonly located under the dense canopy of the host where it synchronizes with the host’s flowering period.
Pollination and seed dispersal
The method of pollination is by using scent cue to lure mammalian ground-dwellers. Due to location, scent cues are more effective in manipulating behaviors in mammalian ground-dwellers. Mammals that assist in pollination are the elephant shrews (Elephantulus brachyrhynchus), the striped field mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio), and the Pygmy mouse (Mus minutoides). The scent is chemically derived into two substances: 1-hexen-3-one and 3-hexaone. The first substance is used primarily to attract the pollinators. The latter is a strong repellant but when both substances are released, the net effect attracts the mammals. Method of seed dispersal is through mammalian locomotion and fecal disposal. Lizards have also been observed to assist this flower in seed dispersal.
- Burgoyne, P.M. (2006). "A new species of Cytinus (Cytinaceae) from South Africa and Swaziland, with a key to the Southern African species". Novon: A Journal for Botanical Nomenclature. 16 (3): 315–319. doi:10.3417/1055-3177(2006)16[315:ansocc]2.0.co;2.
- Johnson, Steven D.; Burgoyne, Priscilla; Harder, Lawrence D.; Dötterl, Stefan (2011). "Mammal pollinators lured by scent of a parasitic plant". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 278 (1716): 2303–2310. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.2175. PMC 3119003. PMID 21208953.
- Smithies, S.J.; Burgoyne, P.M. (2010). "Cytinus visseri". Curtis's Botanical Magazine: 322–332.