En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Invasives species experiment from Fairfax VA
May 09, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have some friends that need an experiment on Invasive Species fast. They are in 11th grade at Robinson secondary school. Are you able to help? Its due in June and they don'...
view the full question and answer

What about Asian Jasmine and scrub oaks?
September 01, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have several clusters of native scrub oaks in my yard. I planted Asian jasmine under them many years ago. The trees look fine, but an arborist has told me that the Asian ...
view the full question and answer

Killing oak sprouts from El Paso TX
August 16, 2011 - I want to know how to kill oak root sprouts and seedlings. Very dense and out-of-control in huge area of front lawn. I had tree cut down and I still cannot get rid of them. They're only getting wors...
view the full question and answer

Are non-seeding Bermudgrass hybrids invasive?
July 15, 2010 - Since Cynodon dactylon (Bermudagrass) is listed as an invasive species (texasinvasives.org), do you feel the non-seed producing Bermudagrass hybrids would also be considered invasive? Assuming a hybri...
view the full question and answer

Information on various plants from Alamo TX
November 15, 2009 - Have you heard of the following plants: Butterfly Iris,Compact Nanpina, Red Dwarf Turks? I would like to know some details on the above plant: size, flowers?, drought tolerant, where to plant Thanki...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center