Balanophora is a genus of parasitic plants in the family Balanophoraceae found in parts of tropical and temperate Asia, including the Eastern Himalayas,[1] Malesia region, Pacific Islands, Madagascar, and tropical Africa.[2][3] There are about 20 accepted species,[4] including the newly discovered B. coralliformis. Many species emit an odour which possibly attracts pollinators in the same way that pollinators are attracted to Rafflesia.[5]

Hup Patad08.jpg
Balanophora fungosa subsp. indica found in northwest Thailand (Hup Patad cave)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Santalales
Family: Balanophoraceae
Genus: Balanophora
J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.
Type species
Balanophora fungosa

See text

  • Balania Tiegh.
  • Balaniella Tiegh.
  • Polyplethia (Griff.) Tiegh.

Balanophora species are used in folk medicine in many Asian cultures.[3] For example, in China, Balanophora is known as she-gu (stone-fungus) and in Thailand as hoh-ra-tao-su-nak. In both cases, the plant is used to treat a variety of ailments and has various ritual purposes. The tubers of Balanophora are rich in a wax-like substance which is used in Java as a fuel for torches.[5][6]


The genus was first described in 1775 by Johann Reinhold Forster and his son Georg Forster in Characteres Generum Plantarum.[7][8] The name is derived from the ancient Greek words balanos (βάλανος), meaning "acorn" and pherein (φέρειν), meaning "to carry".[9]


As of May 2020, the following species are accepted at Plants of the World Online:[4]


  1. ^ O'Neill, Alexander; Rana, Santosh (26 July 2018). "Root holoparasite Balanophora polyandra Griff. (Balanophoraceae) in eastern Himalaya (Sikkim, India): distribution, range, status and threats". Journal of Threatened Taxa. 10 (8): 12123–12129. doi:10.11609/jott.3644.10.8.12123-12129.
  2. ^ "Balanophora J.R. Forst. & G. Forst". Botanical Garden. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  3. ^ a b O'Neill, A.R.; Rana, S.K. (2019). "An ethnobotanical analysis of parasitic plants (Parijibi) in the Nepal Himalaya". Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 12 (14). doi:10.1186/s13002-016-0086-y.
  4. ^ a b "Search results for Balanophora". The Plant List. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b Jin, Chee Beng; Hoo, Lau Kah (2010). "Balanophora:the hidden highland parasite with unexplored medicinal potential". Malaysian Naturalist: 20–21. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Balanophoraceae". Flora Malesiana. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Balanophora". International Plant Names Index (IPNI). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  8. ^ Forster, Johann Reinhold; Forster, Georg (1775). Characteres Generum Plantarum. London: White, Cadell & Elmsly. p. 99. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  9. ^ Backer, C.A. (1936). Verklarend woordenboek der wetenschappelijke namen van de in Nederland en Nederlandsch-Indië in het wild groeiende en in tuinen en parken gekweekte varens en hoogere planten (Edition Nicoline van der Sijs).