Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Orobanche crenata
(crenate broomrape)



Orobanche crenata (crenate broomrape)


  • Last modified
  • 22 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Orobanche crenata
  • Preferred Common Name
  • crenate broomrape
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae

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O. crenata killing faba bean.
TitleFlowering plants
CaptionO. crenata killing faba bean.
Copyright©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
O. crenata killing faba bean.
Flowering plantsO. crenata killing faba bean.©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
O. crenata on faba bean.
TitleOn faba bean
CaptionO. crenata on faba bean.
CopyrightD.M. Joel
O. crenata on faba bean.
On faba beanO. crenata on faba bean.D.M. Joel
O. crenata, close-up of flowers.
CaptionO. crenata, close-up of flowers.
Copyright©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
O. crenata, close-up of flowers.
FlowersO. crenata, close-up of flowers.©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Orobanche crenata Forskal (1775)

Preferred Common Name

  • crenate broomrape

Other Scientific Names

  • Orobanche alba Mutel
  • Orobanche crispa Zahlbr.
  • Orobanche cyamophya St. Lag. (1889)
  • Orobanche grandiflora Bory & Chaub. (1832)
  • Orobanche pruinosa Koch (1818)
  • Orobanche segetum C. Koch (1849)
  • Orobanche speciosa De Candolle (1815)

International Common Names

  • English: scalloped broomrape
  • Spanish: jopo (Colombia)
  • French: Orobanche chevelue
  • Portuguese: penachos

Local Common Names

  • Italy: Orobanche della fava

EPPO code

  • ORACR (Orobanche crenata)

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Scrophulariales
  •                         Family: Orobanchaceae
  •                             Genus: Orobanche
  •                                 Species: Orobanche crenata

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Orobanche crenata is occasionally known by the synonym Orobanche speciosa but there is no other nomenclatural confusion with closely related species. Beck-Mennagetta (1930) describes a number of subspecies or forms but these are not generally recognized today. This an outcrossing species showing much genetic diversity, but no clearly defined local races (Paran et al., 1997).


Top of page O. crenata produces leafless flowering stems, up to 100 cm high, usually un-branched, bearing alternate scales, less than 2 cm long. The plant is pale, completely lacking any chlorophyll. The base of the stem, below ground, is normally swollen and tuberous. The inflorescence, occupying up to half the length of the stems carries many acropetally developing flowers, arranged in spikes or racemes, each subtended by a bract 15-25 mm long (without the additional bracteoles present in O. ramosa). The calyx has four free segments, more-or-less bidentate, 10-20 mm long. The white corolla tube, 20-30 mm long, is campanulate, with wide, divergent lips up to 15 mm across, usually with distinct lilac veins. Flowers are distinctly fragrant. Filaments are inserted in the corolla tube, 2-4 mm above the base. A capsule develops up to 10-12 mm long and may contain several hundred seeds, each about 0.2 x 0.4 mm. (For an illustration of typical Orobanche seeds, see data sheet for O. aegyptiaca). A single plant carries ten to several hundred flowers and hence may produce up to a quarter of a million seeds. (From sources including Chater and Webb, 1972.)

Chromosome number (2n) = 38.


Top of page O. crenata is commonest in countries adjacent to the Mediterranean. It extends sporadically eastwards as far as Pakistan and India, and northward into northern Europe but is rarely a significant problem away from the immediate Mediterranean region. The suspected occurrence in Ethiopia is an alarming development in a country where faba bean is a major crop.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


AlgeriaPresent, WidespreadParker and Wilson (1986)
EgyptPresent, WidespreadParker and Wilson (1986); CABI (Undated)
EthiopiaPresent, LocalizedCABI (Undated)Original citation: Besufekad Tadesse et al., 1999
LibyaPresentParker and Wilson (1986)
MoroccoPresent, WidespreadParker and Wilson (1986); CABI (Undated)
TunisiaPresent, WidespreadParker and Wilson (1986); CABI (Undated)


IndiaPresentCABI (Undated)Original citation: Holm et al. (1979)
IranPresentBorg (1994)
IraqPresentParker and Wilson (1986); CABI (Undated)
IsraelPresentCABI (Undated)Original citation: Holm et al. (1979)
JordanPresent, WidespreadParker and Wilson (1986); CABI (Undated)
LebanonPresent, WidespreadParker and Wilson (1986); CABI (Undated)
PakistanPresentCABI (Undated)Original citation: Holm et al. (1979)
SyriaPresent, WidespreadParker and Wilson (1986)
TurkeyPresent, WidespreadParker and Wilson (1986); CABI (Undated)


AlbaniaPresentChater and Webb (1972)
AustriaPresent, LocalizedBorg (1994)
BulgariaPresentChater and Webb (1972)
CyprusPresent, WidespreadParker and Wilson (1986)
CzechoslovakiaPresent, LocalizedBorg (1994)
Federal Republic of YugoslaviaPresentChater and Webb (1972)
FinlandPresent, LocalizedBorg (1994)
FrancePresentChater and Webb (1972)
GermanyPresent, LocalizedBorg (1994)
GreecePresentChater and Webb (1972)
ItalyPresentChater and Webb (1972)
-SicilyPresentCABI (Undated)Original citation: Mauromocale et al. (2001)
MaltaPresent, WidespreadParker and Riches (1993)
NetherlandsPresent, LocalizedBorg (1994)
PortugalPresentChater and Webb (1972)
-AzoresPresentChater and Webb (1972)
RussiaPresentChater and Webb (1972)
-Southern RussiaPresentChater and Webb (1972)
SpainPresentChater and Webb (1972)
-Balearic IslandsPresentChater and Webb (1972)
SwedenPresent, LocalizedBorg (1994)
SwitzerlandPresent, LocalizedBorg (1994)
United KingdomPresent, LocalizedBorg (1994)

Risk of Introduction

Top of page Orobanche species are listed as prohibited, and/or subject to quarantine, in virtually all countries with developed plant quarantine systems.


Top of page The habitat of O. crenata is the winter rainfall area of the Mediterranean region. It occurs only exceptionally in the summer season. It is associated with the cropping of legumes and umbellifers and is not generally found in wild vegetation, though it may occur on related weeds in fallow seasons.

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page The host range of O. crenata is somewhat narrower than that of Orobanche ramosa, with the main host crops restricted to Fabaceae and Umbelliferae [Apiaceae] and relatively sporadic occurrence on crops in a few other families such as Compositae [Asteraceae] and Cucurbitaceae. Wild hosts are mainly in these same families.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Top of page The symptoms from O. crenata attack may not be apparent until after emergence of the parasite, when faba bean may begin to suffer wilting and collapse. In the absence of these obvious symptoms, there may be a serious reduction in pod setting and fruit development. In carrots, root development is severely weakened, while in lettuce, there is reduced development of the 'heart'.

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Fruit / premature drop
Fruit / reduced size
Leaves / wilting
Whole plant / dwarfing
Whole plant / early senescence
Whole plant / plant dead; dieback

Biology and Ecology

Top of page O. crenata is an obligate parasite, needing to establish a connection to a host root within a few days of germination. The seed is minute (approximately 0.2 x 0.4 mm), from which only the radicle emerges, and this can grow only a few mm long. A chemical stimulus is needed to trigger Orobanche germination. This stimulus normally comes from host roots. Therefore Orobanche normally germinates only when a host root is nearby. However, a moist environment is required (for several days), together with suitable temperatures, before the mature seed is responsive to germination stimulants. This preparatory period is known as conditioning or preconditioning. Conditioned seeds remain responsive to germination stimulants for several months. Their ability to respond to germination stimuli fades gradually when the seeds dry, and they then remain dormant until re-conditioned (Timko et al., 1989; Joel et al., 1995). Detailed studies of the effects of different temperature and moisture regimes on the germination and viability of O. crenata have been reported by Kebreab and Murdoch (1999a, b) and by van Hezewijk et al. (1993a, b). Optimum temperatures for conditioning and germination of O. crenata are in the region of 15-20°C but prolonged exposure to these temperatures in the absence of stimulant leads to secondary dormancy, while much higher temperatures are inhibitory. This combination of characteristics ensures that the seeds have a characteristic cycle of germinability through the year and tend to germinate freely over a relatively short period in early to mid-winter.

On contact with the host root, a swelling, the haustorium, is formed, and intrusive cells penetrate through the cortex to the vascular bundle to establish connection with the host xylem and phloem (Dorr and Kollmann, 1995). The parasite develops into a tubercle on the surface of the root, developing to a diameter of 5-20 mm. Secondary roots may develop on the tubercle and make separate contacts with the host root system. After several weeks, the tubercle develops a flowering shoot which emerges above the soil.

Seeds are produced in very large numbers and may remain viable in soil for many years. Lopez-Granados and Garcia-Torres (1999) showed that seed in the field persisted for 6-9 years.

Orobanche spp. depend totally on their hosts for all nutrition, and also draw most of their water from the host root. Effects on the host are generally proportional to the biomass of the parasite, such that the mass of the parasite is reflected in a very similar loss in mass of the host crop (e.g. Manschadi et al., 1996).

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Aspergillus niger Antagonist Stems
Fusarium oxysporum Pathogen
Gibberella intricans Pathogen Stems
Haematonectria haematococca Pathogen
Lewia infectoria Pathogen Stems
Mycosphaerella tassiana Pathogen Stems
Phytomyza orobanchia Predator Fruits/pods/Stems
Smicronyx cyaneus Predator Fruits/pods/Stems
Ulocladium atrum Pathogen Stems

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page Phytomyza orobanchia commonly attacks O. crenata, perhaps throughout its range, causing significant reduction in seed production. Up to 94% of capsules of O. crenata may be destroyed in Turkey (Giray and Nemli, 1983) and 25-100% in Egypt (Hassanein et al., 1998). Smicronyx cyaneus is also reported to cause significant damage to O. crenata in several countries (Zermane, 1997).

Many fungi have been isolated from O. crenata. Linke et al. (1992) list those identified in Syria, including Ulocladium species of possible interest for biological control as well as Fusarium and Alternaria spp. In Egypt, 42 fungi were isolated, all non-pathogenic to faba beans (Abdel Kader et al., 1998). Some of these were able to decrease the number of emerged O. crenata and/or to infect them with clear rot symptoms. The most parasitic isolates belonged to Alternaria, Fusarium and Trichoderma.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page The very small seeds may very easily be moved from one field to another by water, wind, animals and man. The seeds remain viable after passing through the alimentary system of animals; therefore manure may be contaminated with viable Orobanche seeds.

Agricultural products of various crops may carry Orobanche seeds if harvested in an infested field.

Agricultural tools should always be cleaned after being used in an infested field to avoid transfer of Orobanche seeds or contaminated soil to non-infested fields.

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes seeds Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Fruits (inc. pods) seeds Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Growing medium accompanying plants seeds Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Roots seeds Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope


Top of page Holm et al. (1979) record O. crenata as a 'serious' or 'principal' weed in Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon and Italy and 'common' in Morocco. More recent reports emphasize the serious problems caused in Spain, Portugal, Israel, Syria, Turkey and Malta (e.g. Sauerborn, 1991; Parker and Riches, 1993; Parker, 1994). Sauerborn (1991) estimates about 1 million hectares of faba bean affected or at risk in the Mediterranean region. Estimates of loss in infested faba bean vary from 5% in Spain to 20 or even 60% in Morocco (Parker, 1994). Mesa-Gracia and Garcia-Torres (1982) estimated 12% loss of faba bean yield per stem of O. crenata per host plant. In 1996, it completely destroyed about 80% of peas (40,000 ha) in the province of Seville, Spain, resulting in an estimated loss of 1600 million Ptas. (Garcia-Torres et al., 1998). In Israel, Bernhard et al. (1998) also reported complete destruction of peas and up to 50% loss in carrot. An infestation of Orobanche causing severe damage to faba beans locally in Ethiopia almost certainly represents a serious extension of O. crenata distribution (Besufekad Tadesse et al., 1999).


Top of page Dini et al. (1995) report that O. crenata is used in folk medicine for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and cicatrizing properties.


Top of page To check for the contamination of crop seed stocks, place a crop seed sample (100-400 g) into 1 litre of water containing 0.1% surfactant (e.g. Triton X-100). The water surface can be lightly sprayed with anti-foam. Allow to stand for 10 min, then stir well for 1-2 min. Decant the water (keep the seeds for the next step) onto the top sieve, with openings of 500 µm, which is placed on top of a second sieve with openings of 100 µm. Wash the seeds as above two additional times, decanting the water onto the sieve. On the last wash, dump the entire content onto the sieve together with the washing water. Using a shower nozzle, thoroughly wash the seeds on the sieve with an additional 5-8 litres of tap water. The presence of Orobanche seeds can be determined on the surface of the lower sieve, with the help of a dissection microscope (Jacobsohn and Marcus, 1988). For an illustration of typical Orobanche seeds, see data sheet for O. aegyptiaca.

Detection and Inspection

Top of page To determine the level of infection of the soil, before crops are planted, soil samples from different parts of the field may be taken, the lighter, organic matter separated, sieved, and the portion between 0.1 and 0.5 mm studied under a dissecting microscope for the presence of the characteristically sculpted seeds.

After crop establishment, the roots may be carefully retrieved and washed, and inspected for the presence of the typical tubercles, 1-20 mm. Note that the tubercles are easily disconnected from the roots if the root system is pulled out of the soil.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page There is some confusion with robust specimens of Orobanche minor which have very similar coloration and comparably broad lips in the flowers, but the length of the corolla in O. minor rarely exceeds 18 mm. Another robust species, overlapping with O. crenata in Iberia and North Africa and also occurring on faba bean, is Orobanche foetida, but this has deep red inside the corolla.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Phytosanitary Measures

Most countries prohibit entry of major parasitic weed species, including Orobanche spp.

Phytosanitation is aimed at preventing the spread of viable seeds by minimizing the movement of infested soil by farm machinery and vehicles, preventing grazing on infested plant material, treating manure (e.g. composting) and avoiding the use of hay made of Orobanche-infested plants (Jacobsohn, 1984). One should also avoid the use of Orobanche-infested crop seeds.

Cultural Control

Hand-weeding of emerged stems is often too late to prevent crop damage but may be worthwhile where infestations are still light, to prevent or reduce future infestations. The stems should immediately be removed from the field to preclude seed shed after pulling.

Because of the strict periodicity of its germination, O. crenata infestation is greatly affected by the time of planting of the crop. Highest infestations occur with early planting of crops in October, November or early December, while those in late December and January are much lower. This date of planting effect has been well documented for Spain, Egypt and Syria (see Parker and Riches, 1993). Unfortunately, late planting almost invariably leads to lower potential yields, but some compromise in planting date may be worthwhile as part of an integrated control programme.

Trap crops may be used to promote germination of Orobanche seeds in soil, without themselves supporting parasitism, in order to deplete the seed reserve. Examples of trap crops for O. crenata include sorghum, barley and Vicia dasycarpa ssp. villosa [V. villosa subsp. varia] (Parker and Riches, 1993). Zemrag and Bajja (2001) showed increased yields of faba bean following crops of fenugreek and coriander. There are few examples of the fully successful use of this principle, but Linke et al. (1991a) recorded a 62% reduction in O. crenata after 3 years of growing V. dasycarpa spp. villosa, and it should be considered in any integrated control approach. Intercropping has also been reported to be effective by Bakheit et al. (2001) using lupin, fenugreek and Egyptian clover (Trifolium alexandrinum).

Soil solarization, based on mulching moist soil with polyethylene sheets for several weeks under solar irradiation, can provide excellent levels of control of Orobanche seeds in the upper soil layers where temperatures are high enough (Jacobsohn et al., 1980), and this has been confirmed in a number of studies involving O. crenata (see Parker and Riches, 1993; Mauromocale et al., 2001). In Syria, yield increases of 330, 440 and 92% were recorded in faba bean, lentil and pea, respectively, following solarization to control O. crenata (Linke et al., 1991b).

Kebreab and Murdoch (1999a) showed that seeds maintained at high mositure and high temperature lose viability relatively rapidly. This could explain the success that has been occasionally reported from prolonged flooding or water. Zahran (1982) reported a 65% reduction in O. crenata infestation of faba bean following a flooded rice crop. A period of at least 6 weeks may be needed.

Host-Plant Resistance

Tremendous efforts have been devoted to the search for resistant cultivars of faba bean and some less susceptible lines have been developed, mainly based on the Giza 402 line selected in Egypt as early as 1979 (see ICARDA, 1992; Parker and Riches, 1993). One of these lines X123A was the highest yielding variety under heavy infestation in Egypt, but was the lowest yielding in the absence of O. crenata (Ibrahim and Zaitoun, 1999). Progress has been reviewed by Cubero (1991, 1994) and by Alonso (1998) but Petzoldt (1998) concludes that these efforts have so far led only to more or less tolerant small-seeded varieties of V. faba (field or horse bean) and not yet of V. faba var. major [V. faba var. faba], the most important broad bean in the Maghreb region of northern Africa and southern Spain.

Rubiales et al. (1998) screened over 600 lines of pea and related Pisum spp. for resistance to O. crenata in Spain and found 45 with low levels of infestation. Some of these have now been used to develop lines with good levels of resistance for further selection and breeding (Rubiales et al., 2001)

Certain varieties of Vicia sativa show high levels of resistance to O. crenata (Gil et al., 1984).

Biological Control

The fly Phytomyza orobanchia has been used for biological control of Orobanche spp. in the past but there is no evidence that there are currently any deliberate efforts to exploit this organism. Nor are any fungi yet being used as biological control agents.

Chemical Control

Glyphosate has narrow selectivity against O. crenata in faba bean (see Parker and Riches, 1993) and has been widely applied at repeated low doses as a post-emergence spray, for example, in Morocco and Egypt. Results have not been altogether reliable, and yield increases are generally modest. The problem of having to repeat application many times through a long season is avoided with the use of the short-season type 'Retaca' which requires only one or two applications of glyphosate before being harvested for green pods (Nadal et al., 2001). More recently, the imidazolinone herbicide imazethapyr has shown greater reliability and usefulness in lentil, chickpea, pea and parsley as well as in faba bean (see Parker and Riches, 1993; Geipert, 1997; Garcia-Torres et al., 1998; Kleifeld et al., 1998; Bayaa et al., 2000). Treatments of imazethapyr in pea, faba bean and lentil have been successfully applied as crop seed dressings as well as sprays (Jurado-Exposito et al., 1996, 1997).

Integrated Control

Successful control of O. crenata in faba bean can only be achieved by integration of a range of options. In Syria, Linke (1992) proposed a combination of slightly delayed planting date, with low applications of imazethapyr pre-emergence, or glyphosate or imazaquin post-emergence. A similar combination was suggested in Spain (Garcia-Torres and Lopez-Granados, 1991). Hand-pulling and the use of less susceptible varieties may also be important components. A number of models have been developed which can provide valuable support to the development of integrated control programmes (e.g. Lopez-Granados et al., 1997; Manschadi, 1999).


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