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Cuscuta epithymum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Convolvulaceae (Bindweed)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre long
Fields, grassland, heathland, sand dunes, wasteland.

Pink, 5 petals
The flowers appear in tight clusters, 5 to 10mm in size. The flowers themselves are waxy and translucent. They are bell-shaped and white (tinged pink). Pollinated by bees.
A globular capsule, about 1mm in size. The capsule contains 4 seeds.
A rootless parasitic plant with reddish, threadlike and hairless stems. The stems twine anticlockwise around its host (usually gorse or heather and occasionally thyme). Dodder have very discrete leaves which are small and scale-like. Annual.
The flowers are scented.
Other Names:
Hellweed, Lesser Dodder, Love Vine, Strangle-tare.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Cuscuta epithymum, also known as dodder or love vine, is a parasitic plant that belongs to the Cuscuta genus. It is native to Europe and Asia, and it has been introduced to other parts of the world. Cuscuta epithymum is a stem parasite, meaning that it lacks chlorophyll and relies on other plants for its nutrients. The plant has thin, yellow or orange stems that twist and wind around the host plant. It produces small, white or pink flowers, and it is often found in grasslands, fields, and other disturbed areas. Cuscuta epithymum is known to parasitize a wide range of host plants, including crops and garden plants. It can reduce crop yields and interfere with the growth of the host plant.


Dodder, also known as Cuscuta epithymum, is a parasitic plant species that is often considered a weed. It is a unique type of plant that lacks leaves, stems, and roots and relies on other plants for survival. Dodder is a stem parasite that can wrap around the stems and branches of other plants and extract water and nutrients from its host plant.

Dodder is found in a wide range of habitats, including grasslands, fields, and gardens. The plant is particularly prevalent in agricultural areas, where it can cause significant damage to crops. Its ability to parasitize a wide range of plants makes it a difficult plant to control.

The plant's reproductive system is also unique, as it does not produce seeds but instead relies on spreading its stem to reach new hosts. The stem, or vine, of the dodder plant is thin and flexible, making it easy to grow around other plants. The plant's flowers are small and yellow, and they produce seeds that are typically spread by the wind.

The negative impact of dodder on crops and other plants has made it a target for control efforts. There are several methods used to control dodder, including chemical and biological methods. Chemical control involves the use of herbicides, while biological control involves the use of natural predators such as insects and fungi.

In addition to its impact on crops, dodder also affects the health of wild plants, particularly in natural habitats. The plant's ability to extract water and nutrients from its host plant can weaken the host plant and make it more susceptible to other stressors such as disease and environmental conditions.

Despite its negative impact, dodder has been used for medicinal purposes in traditional cultures for centuries. In traditional Chinese medicine, the plant is used to treat various ailments, including digestive problems and respiratory issues.

Dodder is a unique and fascinating parasitic plant that has both positive and negative impacts on the environment. While its ability to harm crops and other plants has made it a target for control efforts, its medicinal properties and unique biology make it an interesting subject for further study.

Dodder is a highly adaptable plant, and its ability to parasitize a wide range of hosts has enabled it to thrive in many different environments. This adaptability, combined with its quick growth rate, makes dodder a persistent and invasive weed in many areas.

In agriculture, dodder can have significant economic impacts. For example, it can reduce crop yields and quality, which can lead to lower profits for farmers. The plant's ability to parasitize crops like alfalfa, clover, and soybeans can also reduce the value of these crops for livestock feed.

Aside from the economic impacts, dodder also affects the ecology of natural habitats. By parasitizing native plants, it can alter the composition and diversity of plant communities. This can have cascading effects on other organisms in the ecosystem, such as insects, birds, and mammals.

To prevent the spread of dodder in agricultural areas, it is important to implement effective management strategies. Crop rotation, early detection and removal of infestations, and the use of resistant crop varieties can help to reduce the impact of dodder on crops. In natural habitats, controlling dodder can be more challenging, as it requires a coordinated effort from multiple stakeholders, including land managers, conservation organizations, and government agencies.

Overall, dodder is an interesting and complex plant that has a significant impact on the environment. Understanding its biology, behavior, and impacts can help us to better manage this invasive species and reduce its impact on crops and natural habitats.

Dodder has also been used in research to study the mechanisms of plant-to-plant interactions. Its unique biology, with its lack of leaves, stems, and roots, makes it an ideal model system for studying plant parasitism. Researchers have used dodder to study topics such as the molecular signaling pathways involved in host recognition, the exchange of nutrients between the host and the parasite, and the evolution of plant parasitism.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in using dodder as a potential source of bioactive compounds. The plant has been shown to contain a variety of compounds with medicinal properties, including flavonoids, alkaloids, and terpenoids. These compounds have a range of potential therapeutic applications, including anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-cancer activities.

Despite its potential medicinal benefits, the use of dodder in traditional medicine can also have negative consequences. The plant is often harvested from the wild, which can contribute to the decline of populations in natural habitats. In addition, the potential for over-harvesting and the limited availability of high-quality dodder products can drive up prices, making it inaccessible to many people.

In conclusion, dodder is a complex and intriguing plant that has a range of impacts on the environment and human society. From its role as a weed in agriculture to its potential as a source of bioactive compounds, there is much still to learn about this fascinating species. Further research on dodder will help us to better understand its biology, and to develop more effective and sustainable management strategies for this invasive weed.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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