|A picture of Hydnora africana growing in the sand.|
Jackal food is a species of parasitic plants known by the scientific name Hydnora africana. It is also known as the Vampire plant and is native to the continent of Africa. It is known to be a "scary" plant and has been listed as a "weird" or "bizarre" plant on multiple websites. The fruit has multiple applications, ranging from food to preserving fish nets. This plant is parasitic to any of the genus Euphorbia. Jackal food is said to be delicious, especially when roasted over an open fire.
Jackal Food is mainly an underground plant.  There are no leaves or stems, and the only part of the plant that is seen above ground is the flower. These attributes are quite misleading-- so misleading that the original discoverer of the plant thought it was a fungus.
The visible "flower" of the plant is made up of three lobes or slices of brown-colored plant material. These slices are scaly brown and held together by small stringy fibers. The inside surface of the flower is a bright salmon color.
The fruit produced by Hydnora africana can be up to 80 mm across and contain up to 20,000 seeds.
One surprisingly useful feature of Jackal food is the odor -- often described as like feces or rotting flesh. This is actually crucial for reproduction. This odor attracts carrion and dung beetles which then enter the plant. The flower then traps the beetles for a day or two, (during that period the beetles are able to feed on the plant's bait bodies) then releases them. By the time they are let out, the insects are coated in the plant's pollen. This means that, if they should encounter another Jackal food plant, they will pollinate and aid in the reproduction of this organism. (This is much like bees pollinating flowers).
The flower's sole purpose is to aid in reproduction-- it will only appear when enough rain has fallen and the plant's needs are all met. Until then, the plant will remain in stasis, attached to Euphorbia.
Jackal food is a parasitic plant that attaches to the roots of any of the genus Euphorbia. Since Jackal food is completely devoid of chlorophyll, this plant is entirely dependent on Euphorbia for fluids and nutrients. This means that Jackal food is associated with Euphorbia, and Jackal food is only found where Euphorbia is found.
Jackal food is native to the dry, arid regions of southern Africa. The plants can be seen growing in Ethiopia, KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), Botswana, Swaziland, the western coast of Namibia and south towards the Cape.
The fruit produced by H. africana is enjoyed by jackals, porcupines, baboons, moles, birds, and humans. The numerous seeds are not digested, so when they are excreted they are readily able to germinate.
Jackal food is supposedly able to cure many ailments, including diarrhea, dysentery, kidney and bladder problems. It's even been used in acne face wash. It's uses don't stop there, however. It's also been used for tanning and preserving fish nets.
Of course, there are culinary uses for Jackal food as well. The fruit itself is said to be delicious, with a sweet and starchy taste that gets sweeter when cooked over a fire. In Kos uit die veldkombuis, a recipe book by Betsie Rood, the plant is used in a series of Cape dishes-- including one where the fruit pulp is mixed with cream to make a delicious dessert.
An informative video on Hydnora africana.
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