En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - August 18, 2009

From: Palo Pinto, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Plant identification, Cuscuta sp., Dodder
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

A neighbor of mine has a vine with no leaves that is attaching itself to her flowering plants. It is yellow in color, just larger than fishing line and has no leaves. It corkscrews itself around the plant and then it seems to almost tie a knot in itself and then on to another plant. We would like to know what it is and how to eliminate it. Thank you from Palo Pinto, Texas

ANSWER:

This is a dodder (Cuscuta sp.) and is a parasitic flowering plant.  It grows from a seed and after it has emerged it must search for a host or it will die since it has no chlorophyll for producing its own food.  Once it finds a host it attaches itself to its plant host via rootlike structures called haustoria. These allow the dodder to extract nutrients and water from its host.  After the dodder is connected to its host it loses contact with ground get all its nutrients and water from the host.  The host plant doesn't usually die but it can be weakened.  You can read an interesting discussion of dodders from Collin Purrington, a researcher at Swarthmore College.  Here are some native dodders that are known to occur near Palo Pinto County:

Cuscuata indecora (Bigseed alfalfa dodder)

Cuscuta pentagona (fiveangled dodder)

You can see distribution maps for other dodders that occur in Texas and the US, both native and introduced, in the USDA Plants Database

The two introduced dodders that have been found in Texas are Cuscuta japonica (Japanese dodder) and C. suaveolens (fringed dodder)C. japonica (also known by the common name, giant Asian dodder) has been identified as being a serious invasive pest in the Houston area and is listed as a Federal Noxious Weed.  You can read recommendations for eradication strategies for this dodder from Texas Invasives.org.  There is no way I can identify for certain which of the Cuscuta sp. your neighbor has without seeing photos of it, but these eradication methods should work for any Cuscuta sp.

 

 

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Japanese Wineberry in Maryland
July 16, 2014 - Hello, we were at Cunningham Falls in Maryland and I can not identify this plant. If you could I would greatly appreciate it, thank you. It looks like a raspberry but the berries are inside small leav...
view the full question and answer

Invasive Indian paintbrushes in Grawn MI
June 04, 2012 - I have lots of Indian paintbrushes crowding my lawn and taking over the grass..what kills it without killing the grass?
view the full question and answer

Methods of controlling poison ivy
April 19, 2005 - What do you suggest for controlling poison oak (ivy)?
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive peanut butter tree from Canby, OR
July 17, 2012 - I too have a peanut butter tree with the pink and white blooms, its about 5 years old and is beautiful, but 2 weeks ago it started wilting and losing all its leaves, I am afraid it is dying. Can I sav...
view the full question and answer

How to eliminate Sawgrass from a small lake in Lindale, TX?
February 23, 2015 - We live on a small acre lake (about 65 acres) and the majority of the lake is surrounded by what the locals are calling saw grass. From the description on the website, I believe they are correct. The...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center