Hydnora africana, commonly known as warty jackal food and in Afrikaans among other names as bobbejaankos (baboon food), is a leafless holoparasite on Euphorbia roots reaching 15 cm in height.
The species containing no chlorophyll is hard to recognise as a plant, resembling a fungus until it flowers. The brown, above-ground component only appears as a bud when flowering is imminent. The plant becomes woody, darkens with age and smelly, the open flower colourful.
Below ground a network of thick, angular, warty and fleshy rhizophores or subterranean stems develop worm-like outgrowths. They resemble roots, proliferating around the host Euphorbia, making multiple attachments to the host’s roots. Euphorbia mauritanica and E. tirucalli are commonly targeted.
The species distribution is widespread in southern Africa, found in the Northern Cape, the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, further in Africa as far as Ethiopia. The photo was taken on Minwater near Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo.
The habitat is semi-arid regions of succulent Karoo and dry, coastal thickets where the host euphorbias also grow. The species is not considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century.
The Hydnoraceae family consists of a South American genus, Prosopanche, and the African Hydnora. Four Hydnora species occur in South Africa (Pooley, 1998; Bond and Goldblatt, 1984; iNaturalist; http://pza.sanbi.org; http://redlist.sanbi.org).