Recently I have stumbled across a species of Orobanche in two south-west regions of the UK: Teignmouth and Bristol. Both observations were made whilst casually walking along a footpath and despite their draggy appearance, the plants caught my eye as they are not a common sight in Sussex where I live. Others would be forgiven for not noticing this plant, which was fairly well camouflaged against the autumnal leaf litter, as they are wholly parasitic and lack chlorophyll which gives most other plants their green colour. Amongst the nine species of Orobanche native to Britain, colours include dull browns, yellows and purples. These specimens were past their flowering stage and were therefore much more dull in appearance.
The Teignmouth specimen I observed (pictured below) was growing on grassy bank at the bottom of ‘the Ness’ – a huge red sandstone rock outcrop on the coast of Shaldon. Knowing very little about these plants at the time I took a picture and researched the plant later that day. I quickly learned that ID was impossible without a plant to key out, however the Shaldon Wildlife Trust, listed ‘ivy broomrape’ as present in their reserve adjacent to where I found the plant, therefore I considered this a possible ID.
The Bristol plants (pictured below) were numerous alongside a footpath running adjacent to the Avon Gorge near the suspension bridge in Clifton. They were growing amongst ivy which along with their similar appearance to the Teignmouth species, lead me to believe that both species could by ivy broomrape, which is parasitic on the ivy plant. This time I took a specimen which I attempted to key out in my wildflower key (Rose, 2010) later that day only to realise that the diagnostic features were useless now that the plant had withered, and since picking, had withered a great deal more!