Balanophora papuana Schltr.
by Mrs. Syazwani Bt. Azeman
Balanophora papuana Schltr.
by Mrs. Syazwani Bt. Azeman

Balanophora is a genus of parasitic plants from the family Balanophoraceae that lack chlorophyll and thus are dependent on the woody roots of their host plant for the supply of nutrients and water. There are currently 46 recognised species of this genus that can be found in temperate and tropical Asia, ranging from the Pacific Islands, tropical Australia, Comoros, Madagascar and tropical Africa. Currently, six species can be found in Peninsular Malaysia (Kiew, 2010) and five species in Sabah (Barkman et al., 2003).

Balanophora papuana is a herbaceous plant that is widespread throughout Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, the Philippines and the archipelago of islands stretching from Sumatera to New Guinea. It can be found in lower to upper montane forest at altitudes of 1000 – 2000 m. It typically has bright red to orange-yellow or yellow inflorescences (Hambali, 1980). The tubers resemble coral and can reach up to 14 – 24 cm diameter with 3 – 12 branches. The surface of the tubers is granular, sometimes with star-like, white warts. The male inflorescences are 2.5 – 5 x 1.5 – 3 cm with expanded flowers, subtended by inconspicuous tooth-like bracts, 1.5 – 3.5 cm long. The male flowers are often arranged in conspicuous vertical rows with median tepals, wide and truncate, 4.5 x 3.5 mm, and lateral tepals, narrow and acute, 4.5 x 1 mm. The female inflorescences are obovoid to globose, deep red in colour, 1.5 – 3 x 1 – 2.5 cm, which is much smaller than the male inflorescence. The female flowers are chiefly borne on the main axis of the inflorescence. The fruits and seeds are unknown (Hansen, 1972).

The flowers are pollinated by wasps. In Peninsular Malaysia, this plant can be found at Gunung Stong, Taiping Hills, Cameron Highlands, Fraser’s Hill, Gunung Angsi, Gunung Ledang, Gunung Panti and Gunung Belumut. The conservation status for this species is least concern. (Kiew, 2010).


  1. Balanophoraceae. Flora Malesiana, Vol. 1 (7), 1972. Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Netherlands.
  2. Hambali, G.G. (1980). A new species of Balanophora from the Malay Peninsula. Reinwardtia 9 (4): pp. 425-427
  3. Kiew, R. (2010). Balanophoraceae. Flora of Peninsular Malaysia, Series II: Seed Plants , volume 1. pp. 67-81
  4. Todd, Barkman, Bellia, Emoi & Repin, R. The genus Balanophora (Balanophoraceae) in Sabah, Malaysia. BLUMEA - Biodiversity, Evolution and Biogeography of Plants 48 (3), 2003, pp. 465-474
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