Leafl ess parasitic twiners, stem wiry, yellow. Spikes terminal or axillary; peduncle 2-4.5 cm; bracteoles 3, ovate, 1.2 mm, ciliate. Flowers sub sessile, in spikes, 3-merous, bisexual, 3 mm across. Tepals 6, free, unequal, 3+3, truncate, obtuse; outer lobes ovate-orbicular, 1.2 mm, ciliate; inner lobes obovate, 2.5 mm. Fertile stamens 9; fi laments 1.5 mm; glands sessile; anthers 2-celled, 1.5 mm; staminodes 3, to 1 mm. Ovary 1.5 mm; style 0.5mm; stigma capitate. Drupe globose, enclosed within infl ated perianth, crowned by lobes; seed 1.
Thickets or sparse forests on mountain slopes from near sea level to elevations of 1,600 metres in southern China. Occurs especially on the seashore and areas immediately behind the shore, often forming a dense blanket over thickets.
C. filiformis is associated with a very wide range of host plants in a wide range of angiosperm and gymnosperm plant families. Werth et al. (1979), during a short survey on Andros Island in the Bahamas, identified 81 host species in 45 plant families, including ferns, gymnosperm and grasses. It is not known what encourages C. filiformis’ tendency to favour coastal vegetation. It can also occur well inland on non-saline soils.
C. filiformis is a tropical species requiring warm temperatures. It is also sensitive to shading, in spite of having its own photosynthesis and obtaining additional nutrition from its hosts. It is not known to be affected by soil type or pH. Its greater numbers in coastal areas suggest that it may be favoured by hosts growing on saline soils, but there has been no confirmation of this.
Regarding pollination, Weber (1981) did not observe any particular insects on the flowers of C. filiformis as possible pollinators, and could not find any information on pollination in the literature. ‘The presence of the glands in the flower, and the quite long flowering period of several weeks may suggest insect pollination or wind pollination; on the other hand the introrse stamens and the small flowers may achieve self pollination’ (Weber, 1981). Werth et al. (1979) observed thrips (Thyasanoptera) in the flowers but could not confirm that they were providing pollination. C. filiformis is propagated vegetatively and by seed. The fruits have a physical dormancy, and germinate only after scarification or softening by microbial action (Mahadevan and Jayasuriya, 2013a). The fruits are dispersed by sea currents and by birds (Prota4U, 2014). During germination, the cotyledons remain fully intact inside the seed coat. Radicles are tuberous, swollen and whitish-green. The plumule is filiform, cord-like, light green and with minute alternate leaves (Augustine, 2004). Following germination, the primary root fails to develop but several small adventitious roots may provide anchorage for a short period (Mahadevan and Jayasuriya, 2013b). Seedlings can then survive for up to 8 weeks without a host, growing to a length of 30 cm or more, presumably relying mainly on the seed reserves (Nelson, 2008).
C. filiformis is a parasitic vine with a pan-tropical distribution (GBIF, 2014). It is primarily a plant of coastal areas, where it may become dominant on wild grasses, shrubs and trees, and can affect a range of tree crops. It has not often been regarded as a serious invasive except in Cuba (Padrón Soroa, 2005; Oviedo Prieto et alet al,. 2012), Puerto Rico (Kuijt, 1969) and the Chagos archipelago, in the Indian Ocean, where it has for some decades been regarded as invasive on Diego Garcia island and other islands, seriously reducing beach cabbage Scaevola taccada and increasing the risk of erosion (Chagos Conservation Trust, 2014; Whistler, 1996). Somewhat unusually, these are all areas to which the species is native.
C. filiformis has a wide range of medicinal and other uses. GLOBinMED (2014) catalogued uses in dermatology, gastrointestinal problems, obstetrics and gynaecology. These uses are recorded extremely widely, from the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. In Taiwan, C. filiformis is reported as a beneficial medicine against gonorrhoea, kidney ailments and as a diuretic (Mythili et al., 2011). In Africa it is used to treat cancer, African trypanosomiasis and other diseases (Hoet et al., 2004). Antioxidant activity has been reported by Nwaehujor et al. (2013), and hepatoprotective activity by Bincy et al. (2013). C. filiformis also has a reputation as an abortifacient (Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants, 2014). In China, the whole plant is used by local people as a diuretic and as a paste for paper-making (Flora of China, 2014). Nelson (2008) recorded the following miscellaneous uses of C. filiformis in the Pacific region: for sorcery (Kiribati); for fishing magic (Ulithi); for fastening roofing (Papua New Guinea;) as a food for children (Micronesia); as a pre-masticated food for infants (Ulithi); the fruit as ammunition for popguns (Puluwat); the sap as shampoo and hair conditioner (Tokelau); to line earthen ovens (Truk); as casual head garlands for picnics and other light-hearted occasions (Hawaii and elsewhere); for jellyfish stings (Fiji) and for scenting coconut oil. ‘Probably because of the vigorous hair-like growth, the plant has been used in India and South-East Asia in hair tonics’ (Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants, 2010). Medicinal uses are thought to be linked to a range of biologically active substances. For instance, ocoteine, a compound isolated from C. filiformis, was found to be an alpha 1-adrenoceptor blocking agent in the rat thoracic aorta. This type of chemistry has potential applications for inhibiting certain carcinomas such as prostate cancer. Octoeine and a number of other compounds in C. filiformis have antiplatelet aggregation activity (Nelson, 2008). Studies on the aporphines in C. filiformis indicated that these compounds effectively bind to DNA and behave as typical intercalating agents. These interactions with DNA and observed cytotoxic activity may explain, at least in part, the effects observed on cancer cells and trypanosomes (Stévigny et al., 2002; Hoet et al., 2004). Extracts of C. filiformis were shown to have antibacterial action against Staphylococcus aureus,Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, antifungal activity against Candida albicans (Adonu et al., 2013) and antibacterial activity against Klebsiella pneumoniae (Mythili, 2011).