AGALINIS TENUIFOLIA: A PRETTY PARASITE!

The Burke Family Wildlife  Preserve is a 59 ac parcel  in Deering on Pleasant Pond Rd, on Old Francestown Rd., just off  Rt 149.  The parcel, which is owned by the Piscataquog Land  Conservancy, consists of open forest and marshlands. An informal trail (marked with blue diaonds) makes a short loop through the dry, forested part of the property.  Dominated by hemlock and oak, this is a great trail for mushrooming! However, the largest part of the Burke Preserve is an extensive wetland with open water.

Entrance to Burke Family Wildlife Preserve. Photo by Gary Bono

The Eversource power right of way that crosses Deering passes through the middle of the Burke Preserve.  In 2016 Eversource undertook to replace the power poles in Deering. In order for them to cross the many wetlands in Deering between the Weare town line and Deering center they had to place a boardwalk across the wetlands that would support heavy vehicles. It was actually fun to walk across the wetland on the boardwalk, which gave good access to the otherwise inaccessible middle of the wetland in the Burke Preserve.

Eversource boardwalk through the Burke Preserve in November, 2016

Eversource has since removed the boardwalk and vegetation has returned. At least to my untrained eye the wetland is unaffected.

Eversource right-of-way in the Burke Preserve in August

While monitoring the  Burke Preserve late in August  I found Agalinis tenuifolia — slender leaved false foxglove — for the first time in Deering. It was growing in a dry, exposed part of the Eversource right-of-way.

The plants stood out for their pink flowers on plants that stood no more than a foot high.

Agalinis tenuifolia is a native of North America and is widespread over eastern half of the USA and  Canada. It is a member of the plant family Orobanchaceae, the broom-rape family.  All members of this family, which includes nearly 150 genera and 3,311 species, are parasitic on other plants either entirely or, like A. tenuifolia, they have chlorophyll and can produce their own food at the same time that they parasitize nearby plants.

Two other members of the Orobanchaceae are common in Deering. Melampyrum lineare, cow wheat, is a small, inconspicuous herb that has small white flowers. This species has chlorophyll but is parasitic on roots of pine trees. Another common, and conspicuous member of the Orobanchaceae is beech drops, Epifagus virginia, which can be found in Deering’s forests where it parasitizes roots of beech trees.   Agalinis tenuifolia is not specialized as to host.

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