A Most Delightfully Insidious Plant

Most of the time, when I accompany Sigyn and the human female on their little botanical forays, I’m just there to make sure that nothing happens to my beloved and to enjoy her delight in all things chlorophyllous and/or floriferous.  If it makes her happy, I will traipse among the posies on a daily basis.  But for myself–meh.

Occasionally, however, I find a plant after my own heart.  Take today, for instance.  A close inspection of the “lawn” outside the big metal building where the human female spends a lot of her time has revealed some tiny treasures blooming in the blue to violet end of the spectrum.

orobanche1

The human female says that there are Sherardia behind me, Veronica just beneath Gungnir’s tip, and Orobanche ramosa to Sigyn’s right.  Those first two are so puny they’re hardly worth my notice, but the Orobanche is intriguing.  Sigyn, can we see if there’s one blooming in the shade, please?  (I do worry about your fair complexion.)

orobanche2

That’s much better.  These flowers are quite interesting–purple and fuzzy and looking like little angiospermous hand puppets.  What’s that, Sigyn?  Good gracious–you’re right.  The plant has no leaves!  No green parts at all.  I wonder why that is?

Ah.  Now the human female has hauled out her portable soapbox and is going on (and on, and on) about this pretty little thing.  Oh, ho ho!  It is a most marvelous, malicious member of the Orobanchaceae, a family consisting of parasitic plants!  This demure-but-pernicious species parasitizes a wide range of host plants.  Amazing! That would explain why the surrounding plants look a mite peaked.  Apparently, it is a worldwide problem, causing millions of dollars of crop losses in parts of Midgard.  Its seeds are like dust, tiny and capable of clinging to animals, shoes, machinery, and vehicles. And they can lie dormant in the soil for decades.  Best part?  Herbicide doesn’t kill them!  If the plant is mature enough to flower, it has enough stored, stolen food to flower and set seed even if its host is killed.  It was inadvertently brought to this part of the realm in 1997 and has encroached upon dozens and dozens of counties, with no hope of eradication.

orobanche 3

Sigyn is horrified, but I can see all sorts of uses for this.  First, I gather bushels of seeds.  Next, I make sure that every beet field on Midgard gets inoculated.  Then it’s the human female’s garden.  Then I hold the rest of the planet hostage.  Submit, or be sprinkled!

I take back every unkind syllable I have ever uttered about “boring plants.”  This little purple miracle may be the key to conquest!

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