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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Pretty Parasite

This orange, stringy stuff shows up all over Pasadena's wild places this time of year. It's a plant with a stretchy, rubbery texture. If you enlarge this photo you can see what it's doing: strangling its host plant.

The orange parasite is called Cuscuta, or "Dodder." My friend, the landscaper Leo Snider (who's very knowledgeable about southern California native plants), says Orange Dodder's favorite host is sumach. Sumac recovers from the parasite over the winter, according to Leo, and from what I can tell so do the other plants it invades. "One nice thing," says Leo, "is that Dodder usually localizes. That is to say, it hasn't taken over the world."

Just a few defenseless locals.

9 comments:

diva said...

It is a pretty plant-too bad it strangles the host.
In the northwest we have wild blackberries which would take over houses, bridges, highways if not controlled.
In August the berries are deliciious, however.

USelaine said...

I never knew about this plant. Thanks for the introduction. If I'm a doddering old fool, does that mean I strangle people?

marley said...

Very Strange. I've never heard of this before. It looks like a colourful version of our Bind Weed, that does a similar thing.

Petrea said...

Diva, I'd say eating those blackberries ought to put them in their place.

USElaine, I don't know if it means you'd have to strangle people but I'd say you'd be a fool to do so! (Maybe you'd be a doddering fool to strangle plants?)

Marley, I had to Google Bind Weed. Another pretty parasite.

Bernie K. said...

That's creepy-cool. One of the links at the Wikipedia article was to an NPR story, which reported recent research that concluded that Cuscuta can "smell" its prey …

This plant is the vegetal equivalent of slang: we disapprove, call it a weed, fight it off—yet it changes the ecology, & who's to say that's somehow bad?

Bibi said...

I guess it's thanks to their attractivenss that parasite plants survive--mistletoe's a parasite, too, and look what great press it's received over the centuries! Nice photo---didn't know about this strangler. (And I'm thick...you said you were GF on my blog this a.m....what does that stand for? I know the F is probably "first"!)

Petrea said...

Good point, Bernie. It changes the ecology, therefore it *is* the ecology in a way...

Bibi, the answer's on your wonderful blog.

Miss Havisham said...

Is Spanish moss a parasite, too? Someone brought me some from Kentucky and it looks like that only greenish gray.

Petrea said...

You're barking up the wrong tree, Miss H. I always Google if I can't find Leo. But sure, why not? I'll bet you a cup of your favorite beverage that it's a parasite.