Dodder: Wizard’s Net

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

If you have been lucky recently, you may have been out walking on the moors or grasslands and seen a kind of crazy candy-floss looking plant which grows in mats on and throughout other vegetation, perhaps not dissimilar to an unruly spaghetti. Its the Dodder! Genetic testing of Dodder has recently confirmed botanist's early suspicions that it is a bindweed, part of the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae. And being a bindweed makes it of interest!

Image: Wild Flowers of Britain & Northern Ireland Facebook Group

Dodder is a parasitical plant. Rather than drawing nutrients and water from the soil, it infiltrates the stems of it's plant host using microscopic projections called haustoria, and hitches a ride. In this way, Dodder doesn't need to photosynthesise very much so it lacks the green colouration of chlorophyll, and can instead sport a variety of golden yellows, browns, or even vivid pink. The leaves are reduced to fine scales, and the adult plant has no roots. Instead Dodder has tendrils which wrap around the host in a deadly embrace. Without the need to grow roots downwards in search of water, Dodder can dedicate all of its growth to aerial parts where it can outcompete its host. The dodder can grow and attach itself to multiple plants. In tropical areas it can grow continuously, and may reach high into the canopy of shrubs and trees. Such a pernicious gorwth habit has earned the Dodder several enigmatic country names: Wizard's Net, Beggarweed, Hellweed, Strangle Tare, Scaldweed, And Devil's Guts. Or in more recent times, the 'silly string' weed.

There are over 150 species of Dodders, and they seem to have definite preferences for their host plants; they are fussy eaters. Some species are inclined to infest alfalfa, furze, flax or thistle. Others are found on agricultural crops like asparagus, melons, and tomatoes. In China, Dodder can be problematic on soy crops, and Japanese ornamental trees can be overwhelmed by Dodder and ruin their beauty. Management of Dodder is not easy. Although a variety of methods of weed control are used, including herbicide application, removal by hand, mowing, pruning, or burning, no method is perfect and if Dodder takes a hold, it often comes down to losing the crop plant in order to contain the infestation.

Image: Dodder haustorium penetrating host plant stem (micrograph)

Recently two studies (see below) discovered something of the ingenuity of Dodder plants in hijacking their hosts' biochemistry to protect themselves. Not only can Dodder utilise the host plants own endogenous defence signalling (a kind of immune system based on a fatty acid hormone called jasmonic acid), but it can also intercept host proteins in order to become herbicide tolerant. Discovering such a high degree of molecular 'intelligence' coupled with its parasitical nature, makes Dodder a real trickster and even more difficult to eradicate. At ADL we aim to give you the know- how to contend with 21st century agricultural problems, by offering courses in agriculture, organic gardening, horticulture, and permaculture.

Image: Wild Flowers of Britain & Northern Ireland Facebook Group

References

 

Linjian Jiang,, Feng Qu, Zhaohu Li. Inter-species protein trafficking endows dodder (Cuscuta pentagona) with a host-specific herbicide-tolerant trait. New Phytologist. Volume 198, Issue 4, June 2013, pages 1017–1022.

 

Christian Hettenhausen, C., Li, J., Zhuang, H., Sun, H., Xu, Y., Qi, J., Zhang, J., Lei, Y., Qin, Y., Sun, G., Wang, L., Baldwin, I.T., Wu, J.The stem parasitic plant Cuscuta australis (dodder) transfers herbivory-induced signals among plants. PNAS, July 2017

 

Ramsay, Debbie. Dodder: A Devastating and Dreadful Parasite. Fallbrook and Bonsall Village News Online, July 2014. http://villagenews.com/homeandgarden/dodder-a-devastating-and-dreadful-parasite/

 

Grant, Amy. Dodder Weed Control: How To Get Rid Of Dodder Plants. Gardening Know How Online. 2016. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/weeds/dodder-weed-control.htm

 

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp

LEAVE A REPLY

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp

BLOG CATEGORIES

MOST POPULAR

Top 5 Benefits of Improving Your Critical Thinking

Having well developed critical thinking and writing skills will take you far in your work and personal life. Here’s our list of 5 of the most significant benefits of critical thinking and writing. In your school work This one may seem obvious, but it is still worth writing about your schoolwork! When you can translate

Read More »

Darren S – Advanced Diploma in Food and Nutrition – UK

“The course was of huge value due to the comprehensive topics covered in all modules,  with a great mix of research work, reading materials and set tasks to complete which when all added together complemented each other very well.  The level that was expected of you, made you put the time and effort in with

Read More »

Some Improvements to your Office Productivity…

At the moment most of us are working from home instead of our usual cubical or if we’re lucky, personal office. I thought that it would be fascinating to find out more about offices, where most businesses take place and where research innovations come to light with an aim to see how productivity can be

Read More »

Finding help to lift yourself out of sadness and grief

This blog covers some serious issues that may have impacted you personally; please take a moment to make sure you are in the right frame of mind to benefit from this article positively.   During the global coronavirus pandemic, we are all aware of the huge amount of suffering experienced worldwide, nationally, and also within

Read More »

Twelve Ways to Cheer Up … Now

Are you feeling low? You’re not alone in feeling sad. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought sadness, mourning, fear and anxiety to many people. Public health actions, necessary as they are – such as social distancing – can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase low moods. Sad feelings, left unchecked, may descend into

Read More »

SIGNUP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER

Scroll to Top