DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Purple toothwort, Lathraea clandestina, growing under a Magnolia tree in a garden in Edinburgh, Scotland. L. clandestina is native to W Europe including Spain and Italy. It was introduced to the UK in the 1880s as an ornamental garden plant. In the UK it continues to occur mainly in gardens but also, rarely, appears as a naturalised garden escape. It is a parasitic plant, and attaches itself by means of large disc-like suckers to the roots of a nearby tree. In the wild, the most common hosts are willows, poplars or alders, due to its natural preference for damp habitats. The plant lacks chlorophyll, gaining its carbon nutrients from its host. The seeds are dispersed by an explosive mechanism.
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