Amyema conspicua

common mistletoe


Amyema conspicua ssp. conspicua

(F.M. Bailey) Danser 1929

pronounced: a-my-EM-uh kon-SPIK-yoo-uh

(Loranthaceae — the mistletoe family)


common name: common mistletoe

Amyema is from the the Greek α– (a-), not, and μυεω (myeo), to initiate, referring to the separation of the genus from Loranthus, in which all mistletoes with bisexual flowers were formerly included. Conspicua is from the Latin conspicuus, becoming visible, attracting attention. Many publications and websites give the specific as conspicuum. When the series Flora of Australia was begun in 1981, to document all the flowering and non-flowering plants known to be indigenous or naturalized in Australia, the names of the Amyema species were given in neuter gender, in accordance with the nomenclature rules existing at the time. Subsequent changes to those rules now require Amyema to be treated as feminine gender, so the epithets formerly ending in “-um” must now end in “-a”.

The species occurs in New Guinea, Arnhem Land, and eastern Australia from the Torres Strait islands to northern NSW, in rain forests and open forests, parasitic on many different hosts. This subspecies, found principally in North Queensland, is generally found on Alphitonia excelsa on the coast, but on a wide variety of hosts further inland. Many of the plants have flowers that are green when they open, but colour red as they mature. The plants at Mt Mulligan have orange flowers, and the forms from southern Queensland have green flowers.

Some mistletoes, including this one, and, indeed, most of the Australian species, produce only a single haustorium (absorbing root), which can become large and complex, often forming a bulbous junction with the host plant. Other mistletoes produce epicortical runners, roots which grow in vine-like fashion along the outside of the host branch.

The opposite leaf blades of this plant are thick and fleshy, and will break along a straight line when bent back on themselves. The blades, on petioles 2 – 6 mm long, measure about 4 – 8 by 2 – 4 cm. They are oblong to ovate in shape, gradually to abruptly attenuate at the base, rounded at the apex. The venation (3 – 5 veined) is visible on the upper surface of the leaf, but is scarcely visible on the lower.

The inflorescences occur at the nodes. The flowers are in triads, the central flower sessile, the lateral flowers pedicellate. The triads are borne in 2-branched umbels, the rays about 1 – 2.5 mm long. The primary peduncles are slender, about 3 – 9 mm long. The free calyx is up to 1 mm long, either devoid of lobes or obscurely lobed, its apex fringed with reddish hairs. The corolla is about 1.5 – 2.5 cm long. The staminal filaments are roughly 1 centimetre in length; the disk is lobed; the ovary is about 1.5 mm long, its base clothed in pale hairs; the style is a little over 2 cm long, the stigma terminal, and more-or-less globular.

The fruits are globular below, 4 – 5 mm in diameter, with a truncate collar.

This is a food plant for the larval stages of a number of butterflies, including:
      • the Silky Jewel Hypochrysops digglesii,
      • the Satin Azure Ogyris amaryllis,
      • the Northern Purple Azure Ogyris zosine, and
      • the Trident Pencilled-blue Candalides margarita.


Photographs taken on The Forts walk 2015
Page last updated 7th October 2018