Cuscuta chinensis

Lindsay B. wrote today’s entry:

Thank you to Jayesh Patil for submitting today’s Botany Photo of the Day (original Image | Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool)!

Pictured here growing on an unknown host plant is Cuscuta chinensis, a twining parasitic herb native to much of Asia, Indonesia and Queensland, Australia. Commonly known as Chinese dodder, it is most often found growing on plants in the Fabaceae, Asteraceae, and Zygophyllaceae. The seeds of Cuscuta chinensis sprout in soil, however, the radicle quickly dies after germination. In the absence of foliage for photosynthesis, dodder becomes completely dependent on its host for nourishment, eventually killing its host. Common on dry, sandy slopes, Cuscuta chinensis has been identified as a contributor to accelerated desertification in areas of Nepal.

Cuscuta chinensis is considered an extremely useful and versatile herb in traditional Chinese medicine, belonging to the category of herbs that tonify/supplement the yang. The seed is used as a demulcent, diaphoretic, hepatic and tonic, while decoctions with other herbs are used in the treatment of impotence, vertigo, lumbago, leucorrhoea and decreased eyesight.

Cuscuta chinensis

9 responses to “Cuscuta chinensis”

  1. cody

    The host plant appears to be a species of Lantana or Lippia, but I don’t know enough about Indian plants to speculate which species.

  2. Alice

    Also common in the Carribean Islands, including Jamaica. We saw it often when living there.

  3. elizabeth a airhart

    beautiful but deadly it would seem
    thank you for the links google
    does not always come up with
    the answers for sure
    an off question how large is your
    libarary for your work and study
    thank you all

  4. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Very interesting plant, without leaves, all stem and flowers. It looks like such a delicate little thing, with pretty little flowers. Seems in contradiction to its parasitic nature.

  5. Eric in SF

    I saw dodder in the southern Queensland/northern New South Wales area last month. Didn’t stop to photograph it so I don’t know if it was this species or a different one.
    We have dodder here in California and I also noticed it on Maui last year.

  6. Lynne

    How does it extract nutrients from its host?

  7. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    I was wondering the same thing (as Lynne asks)… would it be little rootlet or suckerish thingies that it sends out to pierce the tissue of the host plant?

  8. Maria Carvalho

    Cuscuta uses haustoria to absorbe nutrients and water from the host plant.

  9. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    So it’s a root-like structure.
    Haustorium, plural Haustoria:
    A specialized absorbing structure of a parasitic plant, such as the rootlike outgrowth of the dodder, that obtains food from a host plant. In parasitic fungi, haustoria are specialized hyphae that penetrate the cells of other organisms and absorb nutrients directly from them.
    — American Heritage Science Dictionary.
    An interesting article here, along with a couple of striking photos of trees covered with dodder:
    http://www.ci.arlington.tx.us/park/forestry/forestry_news_giantasiandodder.html

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