April 10, 2010
April 10 - Cuscuta europaea
Cuscuta europaea, is a parasitic plant commonly known as European dodder. These insidious plants twirl around the stems of their hosts and probe into their vascular systems, stealing their water and nutrients. The leaves of dodder are virtually non-existent, reduced to just tiny scales, and many species, including this one, do not engage in photosynthesis any longer and once they are wrapped around their host and soaking up its nutrients, dodder even loses its roots. Dodder may be the most reviled plant parasite as it can infest a huge variety of hosts including both agricultural plants and horticulture species. These plants were originally in their own family, the Cuscutaceae , but new phylogenetic work has placed them in Convolvulaceae, the same family as morning glories. What might be the coolest thing about the dodder? It finds its host plant by "smell"! See this site for more info.