Balanophora fungosa (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Balanophora fungosa J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.

Protologue: Balanophoraceae


Balanophora gigantea Wall. ex Fawc., B. globosa Jungh., B. indica (Arn.) Griff.

Vernacular names

  • Indonesia: perud puspa
  • Thailand: khanun din (general), kok maak paasee (northern), bua phut (peninsular).


From India, throughhout South-East Asia to eastern Australia, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, Fiji and the Marianas.


B. fungosa contains so much wax that it is used to make small candles or torches. Whole plants are macerated and heated until the pulp sticks to small bamboo strips which are then sold as candles. The wax can also be obtained by cooking the plant. All parts of the plant are also used as an aphrodisiac.


Monoecious or dioecious, tuberous root parasite, without chlorophyll, yellow to orange-yellow or red, 1-22 cm long. Tubers single or fused into a clump 10-15 cm wide, branching from the base; single tuber subspherical or depressed, 1-3 cm in diameter, surface coarsely tessellate with polygons 57 mm across. Leaves 10-30, usually arranged spirally, imbricate, closely appressed to the stem and the lower part of the inflorescence, 2-3 cm long. In monoecious plants (subsp. fungosa ) the male flowers (2-20) are situated just below the female part of the inflorescence, they are 4-5-merous with ovoid-ellipsoidal synandrium; female part of inflorescence subspherical to ovoid, 13.5 cm in diameter, largest flowers about 1 mm long. In dioecious plants (subsp. indica (Arn.) B.Hansen), the male inflorescence is ellipsoidal and 2-12 cm long with expanded flowers, the female inflorescence variously subellipsoidal, 1-8 cm long, largest flowers with pistil 1.5-2 mm long. B. fungosa flowers throughout the year and is found in dense primary forest up to 1000 m altitude. It parasitizes many forest tree species, e.g. Diospyros maritima Blume, Macaranga tanarius (L.) Müll.Arg. and Hibiscus tiliaceus L. Several subspecies and varieties have been distinguished on the basis of differences in inflorescences. In West Java var. globosa (Jungh.) B.Hansen with depressed subspherical inflorescences (only female ones observed) up to 4 cm in diameter occurs in the evergreen forest at 1500-2000 m altitude, often with Schima wallichii (DC.) Korth. ("puspa") as host, but it is also found on various other tree species. Because the species is rare, candles and wax have never been traded commercially.

Selected sources

5, 21, 23.