Cuscuta pentagona: The "Dodder" That Won't Leave Home
This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Plant Taxonomy students at Jacksonville University.
|Figure 1: Dodder stems lack chlorophyll and are easy to spot because of|
their orange color. Photo credit: Curtis Clark.
Specific epithet: pentagona
Common name: Fiveangled Dodder
|Figure 2: White, bell-shaped dodder flowers. Photo credit: Curtis Clark.|
Because it is parasitic, dodder does not have chlorophyll and therefore does not photosynthesize. Dodder produces large numbers of seeds that depend on weathering or fungal attacks in order to germinate. These seeds can live in the soil for up to 20 years, waiting for the perfect conditions. Once a seed germinates, the growing plant must reach a host within a few days or die. When dodder attaches to a host, it pierces through the host's epidermis or ‘skin’ layer in order to extract nutrients. Dodder is dependent on the host for survival, so it usually does not kill its host. However it does weaken the host, making it subject to diseases.
The fiveangled dodder has been used by the indigenous peoples as a laxative, contraceptive, and even to treat tuberculosis!
Wunderlin, RP and Hansen, BF. 1998. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida.