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the web of life in southern Africa

Cytinus visseri

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid II > Order: Malvales > Family: Cytinaceae > Genus: Cytinus

Like other members of Cytinus in southern Africa, Cytinus visseri is a holoparasitic species with separate male and female plants (dioecious).

Distribution and habitat

Occurs on rocky sand stone outcrops in South Africa (Mpumalanga, Limpopo) and Swaziland.

Ecological interactions

Host plants

  • Helichrysum reflexum


Johnson et al. (2011) studied the pollination of this species at a site at the top of Long Tom Pass in Mpumalanga, South Africa. The flowers are pollinated by the following species of small mammals: Rhabdomys pumilio (Striped field mouse), Elephantulus brachyrhynchus (Short-snouted elephant-shrew) and Mus minutoides (Pygmy mouse). They are attracted to the flowers by a strong scent that contains two main substances: (1) 1-hexen-3-one; and (2) 3-hexanone. The first substance is very attractive to these small mammals while the second has a repellent effect but together the net effect is to attract them. The flowers contain copious amounts of nectar, which is drunk by the animals.

Publications (by date)

  • Burgoyne PM. 2006. A new species of Cytinus (Cytinaceae) from South Africa and Swaziland with a key to the southern African species. Novon 16: 315-319.
  • Johnson SD, Burgoyne PM, Harder LD, Dötter S. 2011. Mammal pollinators lured by the scent of a parasitic plant. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278(1716): 2303-2310. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2175