Cuscuta pacifica

Dodders always attract my attention. The dense mass of orange thread-like strands seem like contained chaos to me, perhaps a metaphor for life. The plants in today’s photograph can be seen from the satellite imagery via Google Maps (look for the orange spots).

Prior to 2009, this taxon was considered to be a part of Cuscuta salina. However, this recent paper describes the evidence for establishing it as a separate species: Costea, M. et al.. 2009. Untangling the Systematics of Salt Marsh Dodders: Cuscuta pacifica, a New Segregate Species from Cuscuta salina (Convolvulaceae) (PDF). Syst. Bot. 34(4):787-795. doi: Costea et al. used a combination of DNA and morphometric analysis to support the segregation (splitting) of Cuscuta salina.

Cuscuta pacifica, or coastal salt-marsh dodder, is native to coastal areas from southern British Columbia to Baja California. The species it was previously lumped with, Cuscuta salina, is now recognized as generally being a species of inland salt flats, marshes and ponds, though it is present near the coast in California (including the Channel Islands) and Baja California. Its northernmost extent is in Nevada and Utah. For British Columbian botanists, this means the specimen record for Cuscuta salina from near Spences Bridge will need to be taxonomically re-evaluated; most likely it is a misidentification as opposed to a significant disjunct (note: the E-Flora BC site has yet to update to Cuscuta pacifica, but with the description of habitat and range by Costea et al., it is a near-certainty that all of the records in the extreme southwest corner of the province conform to Cuscuta pacifica).

Coastal salt-marsh dodder is “especially” parasitic on Jaumea carnosa (Asteraceae) and Salicornia spp. (Chenopodiaceae).

Cuscuta pacifica

12 responses to “Cuscuta pacifica”

  1. Kaveh

    For a gardener this is a horrible horrible plant.

  2. dori

    Interesting photo. What are the purple things?

  3. Daniel Mosquin

    I first thought the purple might be Salicornia, but the carnosa (flesh-coloured) of Jaumea carnosa makes me think it could be that as well. I honestly didn’t take a close look, as it was a photograph of opportunity (after a meal then head to the campground before it became too dark).

  4. Adolf Ceska

    Can somebody explain me, how people can describe a new species (e.g. Cuscuta pacifica) and include the type of a previsouly described species (e.g. Cuscuta suksdorfii) in it?
    Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

  5. Troy

    Wow. I’ve seen dodder on Iva frutescens in northeastern US salt marshes, but had no idea dodders could parasitize plants on the marsh platform. Thanks for another great post!

  6. Daniel Mosquin

    Adolf, that’s not how I interpret what is going on in their paper. It looks to me that the type of Cuscuta suksdorfii was analyzed for morphometric (and perhaps DNA) analysis. Maybe I’ve missed something, though.

  7. elizabeth a airhart

    one may search useing the word dodder and come up with a lot
    of information and pictures medical uses in the early days
    here in the states and the dodder alerts from japan etc
    dodder or doddering is also used to describe shakey old people
    thank you daniel and company

  8. Adolf Ceska

    In the original paper, the examined specimens were listed as one continuous stream and I overlooked that the type of Cuscuta suksdorfii was listed under Cuscuta salina and not under C. pacifica. Apologies.

  9. Eric Simpson

    Here in coastal San Diego County, the local dodder is sometimes classified as Cuscuta californica (per Jepson Manual) and sometimes as C. salina var. salina. Here’s a couple of photos: & . This example is found at ~6 m. above and 50 m. away from San Elijo Lagoon.

  10. Daniel Mosquin

    Eric, Cuscuta pacifica is in the just-released second edition of the Jepson Manual.

  11. Eric Simpson

    Thanks, Daniel.
    After some more research, it seems we have two dodders locally: one which is found on Salicornia (and which I’ve never noticed); and the more sage-scrubby type as seen in my photos, which was growing on Eriogonum (and sometimes spreads to other victims, er… substrates). Presumably, Cuscuta pacifica is the former, and C. californica the latter(?).

  12. Daniel Mosquin

    Yes, I think that’s the case.

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