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Thonningia sanguinea.jpg
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Santalales
Family: Balanophoraceae
Genus: Thonningia
Species:T. sanguinea
Binomial name
Thonningia sanguinea

Thonningia coccinea
Thonningia dubia
Thonningia elegans


Thonningia is a monotypic genus of flowering plants in the family Balanophoraceae containing the single species Thonningia sanguinea. [1] [2] It is distributed throughout much of southern and western Africa, particularly the tropical regions. [2] [3] Common names for the plant include ground pineapple. [3] [4] A familiar plant to humans, it has an extremely long list of common names in many African languages. Many names are inspired by the resemblance of the plant's inflorescence to a pineapple or palm tree. [5] Some of the names can be translated as pineapple of the bush (from Anyi), duiker's kolanut (from Igala), and crown of the ground (from Yoruba). [4]

Balanophoraceae family of plants

The Balanophoraceae are a subtropical to tropical family of obligate parasitic flowering plants, notable for their unusual development and obscure affinities. The family consist of 17 genera and around 44 known species. The plants are normally found in moist inland forests growing on tree roots and have an aboveground inflorescence with the overall appearance of a fungus, composed of numerous minute flowers. The inflorescences develop inside the tuberous underground part of the plant, before rupturing it and surfacing. The plants are monoecious, or dioecious, and the fruits are indehiscent drupes or nuts. The underground portion, which attaches itself to the host, looks like a tuber, and is not a proper root system. The plants contain no chlorophyll. Balanophora means "bearing an acorn".

Tropical Africa region of Africa

Although tropical Africa is mostly familiar to the West for its rainforests, this ecozone of Africa is far more diverse. While the tropics are thought of as regions with warm to hot moist climates caused by latitude and the tropical rain belt, the geology of areas, particularly mountain chains, and geographical relation to continental and regional scale winds impact the overall parts of areas, also, making the tropics run from arid to humid in West Africa. The area has very serious overpopulation problems.

Inflorescence term used in botany

An inflorescence is a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches. Morphologically, it is the modified part of the shoot of seed plants where flowers are formed. The modifications can involve the length and the nature of the internodes and the phyllotaxis, as well as variations in the proportions, compressions, swellings, adnations, connations and reduction of main and secondary axes. Inflorescence can also be defined as the reproductive portion of a plant that bears a cluster of flowers in a specific pattern.


This species is a fleshy dioecious herb growing from an underground tuber. It is parasitic on other plants via its tuber. The branching, yellowish tuber extends horizontally up to 10 or 15 centimeters through the soil. It forms bulb-like swellings at the points where it attaches to the roots of its host plants. These swellings, or galls, can reach over 18 centimeters wide. [6] The tuber can resemble a rhizome, but there is no true rhizome. The stem is coated with spirals of scale-like leaves. The leaves are not green; there is no chlorophyll, as the plant obtains nutrients from hosts and does not need to photosynthesize. The flowering stem emerges from the ground to produce a bright red or pink inflorescence containing male and female flowers. The crowded flower heads are covered in scales. The inflorescence is up to 15 to 20 centimeters long. [2] [5]

Dioecy is a characteristic of a species, meaning that it has distinct male and female individual organisms. Dioecious reproduction is biparental reproduction. Dioecy is one method that excludes self-fertilization and promotes allogamy (outcrossing), and thus tends to reduce the expression of recessive deleterious mutations present in a population. Flowering plants have several other methods of excluding self-fertilization, called self-incompatibility.

Tuber structures in some plant species used as storage organs for nutrients

Tubers are enlarged structures in some plant species used as storage organs for nutrients. They are used for the plant's perennation, to provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season, and as a means of asexual reproduction. Stem tubers form thickened rhizomes or stolons. Common plant species with stem tubers include potato and yam. Some sources also treat modified lateral roots under the definition; these are encountered in sweet potato, cassava, and dahlia.

Parasitic plant type of plant that derives some or all of its nutritional requirements from another living plant

A parasitic plant is a plant that derives some or all of its nutritional requirement from another living plant. They make up about 1% of angiosperms and are in almost every biome in the world. All parasitic plants have modified roots, called haustoria, which penetrates the host plants, connecting them to the conductive system – either the xylem, the phloem, or both. This provides them with the ability to extract water and nutrients from the host. Parasitic plants are classified depending on where the parasitic plant latches onto the host and the amount of nutrients it requires. Some parasitic plants are able to locate their host plants by detecting chemicals in the air or soil given off by host shoots or roots, respectively. About 4,500 species of parasitic plant in approximately 20 families of flowering plants are known.

Habitat, distribution, and ecology

This plant grows in forests and other habitat. [5] It can often be found in plantations, where it parasitizes such crop trees as Hevea brasiliensis (rubber), Phoenix dactylifera (date), and Theobroma cacao (cocoa). [7]

Plantation long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale

A plantation is the large-scale estate meant for farming that specializes in cash crops. The crops that are grown include cotton, coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar cane, sisal, oil seeds, oil palms, rubber trees, and fruits. Protectionist policies and natural comparative advantage have sometimes contributed to determining where plantations were located.

<i>Hevea brasiliensis</i> Species of plant

Hevea brasiliensis, the Pará rubber tree, sharinga tree, seringueira, or, most commonly, the rubber tree or rubber plant, is a tree belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae. It is the most economically important member of the genus Hevea because the milky latex extracted from the tree is the primary source of natural rubber.

<i>Theobroma cacao</i> A species of tree grown for its cocoa beans

Theobroma cacao, also called the cacao tree and the cocoa tree, is a small evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae, native to the deep tropical regions of the Americas. Its seeds, cocoa beans, are used to make chocolate liquor, cocoa solids, cocoa butter and chocolate.

This species is pollinated by flies and ants. Flies of the families Muscidae and Calliphoridae and ants of genus Technomyrmex visit the flowers to obtain nectar, pollinating the flowers as they enter. Muscid flies of genus Morellia lay eggs in the flowers and the larvae feed on the male flowers when they emerge. This could be an example of mutualism; as the fly pollinates the plant, it provides a site for egg-laying and nutrition for the larvae. [8]

Pollination The cascade of biological processes occurring in plants beginning when the pollen lands on the female reproductive organs of a plant and continuing up to, but not including, fertilization, as defined by sperm-egg cell fusion.

Pollination is the transfer of pollen from a male part of a plant to a female part of a plant, enabling later fertilisation and the production of seeds, most often by an animal or by wind. Pollinating agents are animals such as insects, birds, and bats; water; wind; and even plants themselves, when self-pollination occurs within a closed flower. Pollination often occurs within a species. When pollination occurs between species it can produce hybrid offspring in nature and in plant breeding work.

Fly order of insects

Flies are insects with a pair of functional wings for flight and a pair of vestigial hindwings called halteres for balance. They are classified as an order called Diptera, that name being derived from the Greek δι- di- "two", and πτερόν pteron "wings". The order Diptera is divided into two suborders, with about 110 families divided between them; the families contain an estimated 1,000,000 species, including the familiar housefly, horse-fly, crane fly, and hoverfly; although only about 125,000 species have a species description published. The earliest fly fossils found so far are from the Triassic, about 240 million years ago; phylogenetic analysis suggests that flies originated in the Permian, about 260 million years ago.

Ant family of insects

Ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the Cretaceous period, about 140 million years ago, and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than 12,500 of an estimated total of 22,000 species have been classified. They are easily identified by their elbowed antennae and the distinctive node-like structure that forms their slender waists.


The plant is used as a traditional remedy in many African cultures. This includes in those with sexually transmitted diseases in Ghana. [5] In those with diarrhea in the Congo. [5] A portion of the leaves is used in those with worms. Mixed with Capsicum, it is used topically on hemorrhoids and torticollis. [5] It is used for leprosy, skin infections and abscesses, dental caries, gingivitis, and heart disease. In Zaire, it is said to prevent incontinence and bedwetting. [5]

Traditional African medicine

Traditional African medicine is an alternative medicine discipline involving indigenous herbalism and African spirituality, typically involving diviners, midwives, and herbalists. Practitioners of traditional African medicine claim to be able to cure various and diverse conditions such as cancers, psychiatric disorders, high blood pressure, cholera, most venereal diseases, epilepsy, asthma, eczema, fever, anxiety, depression, benign prostatic hyperplasia, urinary tract infections, gout, and healing of wounds and burns and even Ebola.

Ghana Republic in West Africa

Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km2 (92,099 sq mi), Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. Ghana means "Warrior King" in the Soninke language.

Diarrhea Loose or liquid bowel movements

Diarrhea is the condition of having at least three loose, liquid, or watery bowel movements each day. It often lasts for a few days and can result in dehydration due to fluid loss. Signs of dehydration often begin with loss of the normal stretchiness of the skin and irritable behaviour. This can progress to decreased urination, loss of skin color, a fast heart rate, and a decrease in responsiveness as it becomes more severe. Loose but non-watery stools in babies who are exclusively breastfed, however, are normal.

The other uses for the plant include as an ingredient in the poison applied to hunting arrows by peoples of Côte d'Ivoire. [5] It is also known as a flavoring for soup. [3] In some areas, the flower heads are considered to be an aphrodisiac. [5] In Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, the spiky flower heads are tied to the ankles of toddlers to encourage them to learn to walk; the spikes keep them from sitting down. [4] All parts of the plant are used. [5]

An aphrodisiac or love drug is a substance that increases libido when consumed. Aphrodisiacs are distinct from substances that address fertility issues or secondary sexual (dys)function such as erectile dysfunction.

Toddler child 12 to 36 months old

A toddler is a child 12 to 36 months old. The toddler years are a time of great cognitive, emotional and social development. The word is derived from "to toddle", which means to walk unsteadily, like a child of this age.

The plant is considered a weed in some places, such as rubber plantations, where it can become abundant. [9]

Related Research Articles

Orchidaceae family of plants

The Orchidaceae are a diverse and widespread family of flowering plants, with blooms that are often colourful and fragrant, commonly known as the orchid family.

<i>Dactylanthus taylorii</i> species of plant

Dactylanthus taylorii, commonly known as wood rose, is a fully parasitic flowering plant, the only one endemic to New Zealand. The host tree responds to the presence of Dactylanthus by forming a burl-like structure that resembles a fluted wooden rose. When the flowers emerge on the forest floor, they are pollinated by a ground-foraging species of native bat.

<i>Ficus elastica</i> species of plant

Ficus elastica, the rubber fig, rubber bush, rubber tree, rubber plant, or Indian rubber bush, Indian rubber tree, is a species of plant in the fig genus, native to eastern parts of South Asia and southeast Asia. It has become naturalized in Sri Lanka, the West Indies, and the US State of Florida.

<i>Combretum indicum</i> species of plant

Combretum indicum, also known as the Chinese honeysuckle or Rangoon creeper, is a vine with red flower clusters and is found in Asia. It is found in many other parts of the world either as a cultivated ornamental or run wild. Other names for the plant include Quiscual, Niyog-niyogan, Madhu Malti or Madhumalti, ମଧୁ ମାଳତି Madhumalati, Madhabilata, Malati, Madhumaloti, Akar Dani, Rangoon Malli and Radha Manoharam. It is not closely related to the true honeysuckle species Lonicera tragophylla which is also called the Chinese honeysuckle.

<i>Rigidoporus microporus</i> species of fungus

Rigidoporus microporus is a plant pathogen, known to cause white root rot disease on various tropical crops, such as cacao, cassava, tea, with economical importance on the para rubber tree.

<i>Hydnora africana</i> species of plant

Hydnora africana is an achlorophyllous plant in the family Hydnoraceae, native to southern Africa that is parasitic on the roots of members of the Euphorbiaceae family. The plant grows underground, except for a fleshy flower that emerges above ground and emits an odor of feces to attract its natural pollinators, dung beetles and carrion beetles. The flowers act as temporary traps, retaining the beetles that enter long enough for them to pick up pollen. It is also called jakkalskos or jackal food. The genus name comes from the Greek word hydnon, which translates to "truffle," and the specific epithet africana means to be from Africa.

Euphorbiaceae family of plants

The Euphorbiaceae, the spurge family, is a large family of flowering plants. In common English, they are sometimes called euphorbias, which is also the name of a genus in the family. Most spurges such as Euphorbia paralias are herbs, but some, especially in the tropics, are shrubs or trees, such as Hevea brasiliensis. Some, such as Euphorbia canariensis, are succulent and resemble cacti because of convergent evolution. This family occurs mainly in the tropics, with the majority of the species in the Indo-Malayan region and tropical America a strong second. A large variety occurs in tropical Africa, but they are not as abundant or varied as in the two other tropical regions. However, Euphorbiaceae also has many species in nontropical areas such as the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East, South Africa, and the southern United States.

Plant stem One of two main structural axes of a vascular plant (together with the root), that supports leaves, flowers and fruits, transports fluids between the roots and the shoots in the xylem and phloem, stores nutrients and produces new living tissue

A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant, the other being the root. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes:

<i>Taraxacum kok-saghyz</i> species of plant

Taraxacum kok-saghyz, often abbreviated as TKS and commonly referred to as the Kazakh dandelion, rubber root, or Russian dandelion, is a species of dandelion native to Kazakhstan, Kirghizia and Uzbekistan, that is notable for its production of high quality rubber. T. kok-saghyz was discovered in Kazakhstan in 1932 by the Soviet Union in an effort to find a domestic source of rubber.

<i>Pseudostellaria jamesiana</i> species of plant

Pseudostellaria jamesiana is a species of flowering plant in the pink family known by the common names tuber starwort and sticky starwort. It is native to much of the western United States, where it can be found in sagebrush, coniferous forests, and many other types of habitat. It is a perennial herb growing from a rhizome network with tuberlike swellings. The stem grows up to 45 to 60 centimeters in maximum height. It is four-angled and usually at least partially coated in glandular hairs. The thick lance-shaped leaves are up to 15 centimeters long, oppositely arranged, and sometimes rough and hairy. The inflorescence is a cluster of flowers at the tip of the stem or in the leaf axils. Flowers occurring in leaf axils are sometimes cleistogamous, never opening. Open flowers have five white petals with two lobes at the tips and usually ten long stamens.

<i>Cynomorium</i> Genus of plant of the family Cynomoriaceae

Cynomorium is a genus of parasitic perennial flowering plants in the family Cynomoriaceae. The genus consists of only one species, Cynomorium coccineum. Its placement in the Saxifragales was resolved in 2016 with the help of nuclear, plastid, and mitochondrial sequences obtained from next-generation sequencing. Common names include the misleading Maltese fungus or Maltese mushroom; also desert thumb, red thumb, tarthuth (Bedouin) and suoyang (Chinese). A rare or local species, it grows in dry, rocky or sandy soils, often in salt marshes or other saline habitats close to the coast. It has had a wide variety of uses in European, Arabian and Chinese herbal medicine.

<i>Richardia brasiliensis</i> species of plant

Richardia brasiliensis is a species of flowering plant in the coffee family known by the English common names tropical Mexican clover, Brazilian calla-lily, white-eye, and Brazil pusley. In Brazil it is known as poaia branca. It is native to South America. It is an introduced species and sometimes an invasive weed in many other places, including Hawaii, Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand. It is a weed of citrus groves in Florida.

<i>Gloriosa superba</i> species of plant

Gloriosa superba is a species of flowering plant in the family Colchicaceae. Common names include flame lily, climbing lily, creeping lily, glory lily, gloriosa lily, tiger claw, and fire lily.

Alocasia cucullata is a species of flowering plant in the arum family known by the common names Chinese taro, Chinese ape, Buddha's hand, and hooded dwarf elephant ear. It is kept as an ornamental plant.

<i>Balanophora fungosa</i> species of plant

Balanophora fungosa, sometimes known as fungus root is a flowering plant in the family Balanophoraceae and occurs in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and some Pacific Islands. It is an obligate parasite growing on the roots of rainforest trees. The flowering structure is shaped like a puffball but in fact consists of a globe covered with thousands of tiny female flowers. The globe is surrounded at its base by a much smaller number of male flowers. In flower, the plant emits an odour resembling that of mice.

Hevea guianensis is a species of rubber tree in the genus Hevea, belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae. It is native to the rainforests of Ecuador, Venezuela, the Guyanas, Brazil, Colombia and Peru. It generally grows on well-drained soils or on those that are only lightly inundated, on river banks, in gallery forests, savannah forests and wooded slopes.

Hevea benthamiana is a species of rubber tree in the genus Hevea, belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae. A medium-sized deciduous tree growing to a height of about 27 m (90 ft), it is native to the rainforests of northern Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela.


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