Cuscuta

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Cuscuta

 

(dodder), a genus of parasitic plants of the family Cuscutaceae. The plants, which are noxious weeds, are nearly leafless and rootless. The threadlike or ribbonlike stem is yellowish, greenish yellow, or reddish; it may be smooth or warty. Winding itself around a plant host, the dodder embeds itself in the host’s tissue with haustoria and feeds on its juices. The small flowers (2 to 7 mm) are whitish, pinkish, or greenish; they are gathered into glomerulate, spicate, or globular inflorescences. The fruit is a capsule with four seeds (rarely two or one). The seeds remain viable for several years. The lower end of the stem attaches itself to the soil, and the upper end, making circular motions, locates a suitable plant to wind itself around and parasitize.

Dodders, which are native to tropical America and Africa, are found everywhere. Of the approximately 100 known species, 36 are found in the USSR. The most common species are C. campestris, C. trifolii, clover dodder (C. epithymum), flax dodder (C. epilinum), large dodder (C. europeae), C. monogyna, and C. lehmanniana. Dodders parasitize weeds, forage grasses, vegetables, melons, potatoes, flax, jute, kenaf, and various trees and shrubs. Dodders disrupt the metabolism in the host plants, seriously weakening them, retarding their growth and development, and often killing them. The harvest quality and size are lowered. Fruits become less tasty, the quality of flax fiber is lowered, and the amount of sugar in sugar beets is decreased. Herbs mown for hay that are parasitized by dodders dry slowly, become moldy, lose nutritional value, and cause disease in animals that eat them. Dodders are also carriers of viral plant diseases.

Control measures include strict quarantine of plants; proper crop rotation; decontamination of seed; destruction of parasitized vegetables, tobacco, and other crops; mowing of affected forage grasses before the dodder blossoms; burning of stubble with a flame thrower or spraying it with herbicides; and pulling of flax before the dodder seeds mature.

REFERENCES

Flora SSSR, vol. 19. Moscow-Leningrad, 1953.
Beilin, I. G. Bor’ba s povilikami i zarazikhami. Moscow, 1967.

Z. M. ARKHANGEL’SKAIA

cuscuta

symbol of cruelty. [Flower Symbolism; Jobes, 399]
See: Cruelty