More than 3000 species of flowering plants are at least partially parasitic, acquiring water and solutes from the host via haustoria. More than one third of all parasitic angiosperms - the root hemiparasites - possess green leaves and root systems. In these species there are potentially two opportunities for the capture of water and solutes: an autotrophic or abiotic supply from the external environment, and a heterotrophic or host-derived supply via the haustoria. Most root hemiparasites occur in the Scrophulariaceae, a family also containing autotrophic and holoparasitic plants. Between these two extremes, the root hemiparasites provide an ideal opportunity to investigate the balance between the autotrophic and heterotrophic modes of nutrition in parasitic plants. The tropical hemiparasites within this family are important weeds of cereals and legumes, causing considerable crop losses, and thus fuelling research into the nutritional dependency of these plants on their hosts. These studies have led to some exciting new ideas, particularly with respect to the carbon relations of these plants.