Cytinus hypocistis subsp. hypocistis Linnaeus, 1753
Common names: Yellow Cytinus [En], Cytinet, Cytinelle – ssp.clusii Cytinet rouge, Cytinet de l’Ecluse [Fr], Gelber Zistrosenschmarotzer, Gemeiner Hypocist, Zistrosenschmarotzerblume, Zistrosenwürger [De], Ipocisto commune [It], Κίτισος, Κίτισος υποκύστις, Κύτινος ο υπόκιστος, Λύκος της λαδανιάς [Gr], Yernarı [Tu]
Arkasa, KARPATHOS ● Greece
Description: The genus Cytinus is composed of rootless, stemless and leafless parasites without chlorophyll, whose flowers are only visible during the reproductive period when they arise from the host tissues. This genus was before attached to the Rafflesiaceae family. But recent phylogeny works has showed it belongs to a separated family, Cytinaceae.
There is the only species in the Mediterranean region. Cytinus hypocistis is a self-compatible monoecious species. The inflorescence is a simple short spike female flowers at basal positions and male flowers at distal ones. The fruit is a berry that ripens from May to July and contains thousands of dustlike seeds.
Cytinus hypocistis has several subspecies:
- C. hypocistis ssp. clusii Nyman (anc. Cytinus ruber), with red flowers is found on Cistus creticus (Mediterranean region and Portugal).
- C. hypocistis ssp. hypocistis (L.)L., with yellow or orange flowers prefers to grow on Cistus parviflorus or Cistus salvifolius and Halimium sp. (Mediterranean region)
- C. hypocistis subsp. orientalis Wettst. is found on Cistus parviflorus, with scale-leaves usually red and flowers of 18mm (South Greece and Crete, West Turkey).
- C. hypocistis subsp. pityusensis Finschow is found on Ibiza, Isla Baleares.
- C. hypocistis subsp. macranthus Wettstein 1910, with flowers often more than 20mm parasites Halimium halimifolium and Cistus salvifolius (Portugal, Spain, Morocco).
Biology: It is a root-parasite of Cistus bushes. It lives inside the host plant except for the inflorescence which appears in March to May as a brightly coloured fleshy blob of flowers at ground level. It is hidden below the base of the bush so unless you specifically look for it you are unlikely to see it.
They are pollinated by ants. Ants were the main visitors, accounting for 97.4% of total floral visits, and exclusion experiments showed that they act as true pollinators.
Blamey M., Grey-Wilson Ch., 2005. Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean, Domino Guides, London.
de Vega C., Arista M., Ortiz P. L., Herrera C. M., Talavera S. (2009).The ant-pollination system of Cytinus hypocistis (Cytinaceae), a Mediterranean root holoparasite. Annals of Botany 103:7, 1065-1075[Full text]
Florae Europaeae, Vol.I: Psilotaceae to Platanaceae (1993), Cambridge University Press.