June 20, 2014 § 17 Comments


on an ancient path

a rare plant

of startling beauty –

deadly parasite


For those who need to know…I was excited to find a few of these plants a few weeks ago whilst walking a disused railway track to Walsingham Shrine in Norfolk. I suspect the path had once been an ancient pilgrimage route.  Broomrape is a stealthy thief, lying dormant for many years until a suitable host appears. The plant contains no chlorophyll, so it steals water and nutrients from its chosen victim, eventually killing it. It is fond of tomatoes, sunflowers, celery, beans, aubergines, etc., and causes crop failure all over the world.

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§ 17 Responses to thief

  • That’s interesting, as the only time I have ever seen it is on a pilgrim’s route down Canterbury way; I wonder why there might be such a connection? Any way, gives me the opportunity to say how much I continue to enjoy your stripped-down haiku – and the photographs; you’ve a eye for the latter as well as an ear for the former, so, for all the times I don’t say thank you – thank you 🙂

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      That is interesting. If my memory serves me correctly, I have only ever seen these plants on old paths, drove roads, etc. – never on contemporary pathways. Also, it is only a poorly educated guess that the old railway line was preceded by a pilgrims route; but it would make sense – it may even be a ‘ley line’…
      I was quite surprised at the diversity of plant species I found on the Walsingham route. Species like Ragged Robin, once common, were everywhere. I suspect it’s absence of herbicide that account for that.
      Thank you for the feedback, Geoffrey – it’s always appreciated. 🙂

  • SirenaTales says:

    Rachael, I love the build in this haiku…to me, it parallels both the shape of the plant/flower and her insidious ways of alluring with beauty before invading and ultimately lowering the hatchet. Thanks as always for the fascinating information–all new to me. Shine on, sister. xoxo

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Thanks. Chloe. She’s a mean plant, that’s for sure…
      Have a lovely weekend, my multi talented friend 🙂

  • SirenaTales says:

    Or perhaps I should say “…of alluring with beauty before robbing and….” to continue the theme of thievery…..

  • NEO says:

    That is interesting, I have very little to add, although I have read that Henry VIII walked barefoot to the shrine from the Manor at East Barsham, which would indicate that he followed either an earlier version of Fakenham Rd. or the river Stiffkey. Since they’re more or less parallel, it probably doesn’t matter, and area looks pretty agricultural from the satellite. Then again I see little evidence of abandoned railway right-of-way from the satellite, either.

    It’s a beautiful picture, and an intriguing Haiku, and Geoffrey’s correct (as usual), you provide an island of sanity in a world gone mad. Thank you.

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Thanks for taking the time to check out the satellite photos. When I have a mo I shall research a little. By the way, Jess tells me she has walked this very route!

      • NEO says:

        From the satellite, it looks lovely. I get interested in all sort of strange stuff. And one of them is Walsingham, originally through Jess.

  • Miranda Stone says:

    That is very interesting! This is like the brown-headed cowbird of the plant world. (As you know, I love animals, but brown-headed cowbirds are real bastards.) For a parasite, it’s quite beautiful! I feel bad for the plant it happened to target, though. Thanks for always teaching me something new, Rachael. Love and hugs.

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      I shall check out these cowbirds… they sound scary! I have to confess that I did pick the most beautiful variety of these plants from Google (poetic licence :-)). The ones I found were pinky brown, rather ugly, and made a poor photograph! Big hug, my friend. Hope you’re okay.

  • JessicaHof says:

    Was that on the old line between the Catholic Shrine and Lt Walsingham? I recall seeing it there in patches. xx Great haiku 🙂 xx

  • Wonderful haiku, and photo. Such a dramatic plant….and from many plants perspective we are probably parasites too!
    I have always been told that here in Scotland the pilgrim routes and drove roads carried people and animal traffic from far flung corners of the country. This in a time when most people didn’t move much from their patch of home turf. The seeds of plants hitched rides on the fur, cloaks and clothes of the passing traffic, and in this way a richer more diverse supply of seeds was dropped along the way.
    In a similar manner the river banks of the Tweed and other borders rivers, are lined with an amazing and wide array of plants, and its thought that the wool, which the monasteries along the rivers processed, carried plant seeds from far away into the water when they were washed!

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Thank you for that, my friend. I’m sure that the pilgrim routes, and particularly the drove roads and holloways are largely responsible for our plant diversity. I find it very heartening to remember that living such simple lives added so much to the biodiversity of our little island.

  • worst kind of thief!

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      I suppose it’s just the plant doing the best for itself – but if it was a person, it would be quite frightening…

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