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

Edibility of peppervine berries from Madison MS
February 09, 2012 - I am following up on a question I've posed to many well experienced foragers and naturalists regarding the pepper vine plant or Ampelopsis arbor. There are many conflicting stories regarding the edib...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of Polygonum punctatum (dotted smartweed)
July 28, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, After much online research, my property has been invaded by what I believe to be Persicaria polygonum punctata, more commonly known as dotted smartweed. I have tried hortic...
view the full question and answer

Invasiveness of Oenothera speciosa?
October 02, 2015 - Hello! I received a large package of Oenothera speciosa seeds and would like to plant them this month. I've read elsewhere that they can choke out out other plants and am wondering to what degree thi...
view the full question and answer

Looking for lunaria in VA
May 06, 2011 - Where in the state of Virginia or North Carolina can I purchase the Lunaria annual plant? (the purple leaf lunaria annual plant)
view the full question and answer

Introduced invasive Melia azedarach along Shoal Creek in Austin
April 17, 2007 - Along the Shoal Creek Trail in Austin are many flowering trees with sparse clusters of small pink/purple, star-shaped flowers with a dark red center stalk, blooming now in April. They have a fragrance...
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