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?


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
1 rating

Tuesday - March 13, 2012

From: Kerrville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: Are Cuscuta spp. (dodders) in Cuscutaceae or Convolvulaceae?
Answered by: Nan Hampton


USDA plant database has the species Cuscuta in the CUSCUTACEAE FAMILY; you have it in the CONVOLVULACEAE FAMILY. Which is correct? Thank you.


Our Native Plant Database shows all but one of the 13 species in the Genus Cuscuta (dodders) included in our Native Plant Database as being in the Family Cuscutaceae.  There is one, however, Cuscuta cuspidata (Angel hair), that is, at present, mistakenly shown in our database as being in the Family Convolvulaceae.

There is some controversy about which family the Genus Cuscuta belongs in.  Some botanists have it in the Family Cuscutaceae and some would put it in the Family Convolvulaceae.  Our Native Plant Database follows the nomenclature used by the USDA Plants Database that has all the Cuscuta in the Family Cuscutaceae. The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), however, lists all  Cuscuta spp. under the Family Convolvulaceae.  I found this statement under the entry for Cuscutaceae in Shinners and Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas, page 572:

"Related to the Convolvulaceae and sometimes treated as a monogeneric tribe in that family; however, Cuscutaceae can be readily distinguished by their parasitic habit, absence of chlorophyll and lack of contact with the soil after parasitizing a host..."

You can read more about the choice of Cuscutaceae or Convolvulaceae in a 1999 lecture by James L. Reveal from the Norton-Brown Herbarium, University of Maryland.

Thank you for pointing out this discrepancy in our Native Plant Database.   It will be corrected.


More General Botany Questions

Yellowing of palm tree leaves
May 14, 2008 - I want to know about palm trees. The leaves are turning yellow.
view the full question and answer

Appearance of plants
April 14, 2009 - What is plants appearance?
view the full question and answer

Question about booklet, Native and Adapted Landscape Plants
June 24, 2009 - In the booklet"Native and Adapted Landscape Plants for Central Texas", the light requirements for some plants are written in a way that I do not understand. Is Sun/Part Shade different from Part Sha...
view the full question and answer

Are Chickasaw plums evergreen?
August 13, 2014 - Are Chickasaw Plums evergreens? I've been very interested in planting a few but some websites say they are evergreens while others say the opposite. Furthermore, would I have to plant a male and fema...
view the full question and answer

How to determine the gender of wax myrtles from the WFC?
February 08, 2010 - Mr.Smarty Plants, have the wax myrtles that are up for sale at the Center's Spring Plant sale been sexed? I need a male plant. How can the sex be determined when the plant is young? Or can it?
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center