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Yellow Dodder

Cuscuta campestris

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Convolvulaceae (Bindweed)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
5 metres long
Fields, gardens, grassland, riversides, seaside, wasteland, waterside, woodland.

White, 5 petals
The greenish-white, bell-shaped flowers appear inside small globular clusters. There are between 3 and 8 flowers per cluster.
Light brown fruit. 2 to 4 seeded.
A rootless, twining parasitic plant hosting on alfalfa, tomatoes, carrots or cranberry. It has yellow or orange, threadlike stems. The similar looking Dodder (Cuscuta epithymum) has red stems. The leaves are hardly noticeable since they are very small and scale-like. Annual.
Other Names:
Field Dodder, Golden Dodder, Large-seeded Alfalfa Dodder, Prairie Dodder.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Cuscuta campestris, also known as field dodder or golden dodder, is a parasitic plant that belongs to the Cuscuta genus. It is native to North America, and it is widely distributed in the United States and Canada. Cuscuta campestris 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 campestris 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.


Yellow Dodder: A Parasitic Plant with a Unique Lifestyle

Yellow dodder, also known as Cuscuta campestris, is a parasitic plant that is native to North America but can be found all over the world. Unlike most plants that derive their energy from photosynthesis, yellow dodder does not have chlorophyll and relies entirely on other plants for its survival. This makes it a unique and fascinating species to learn about.

The Life Cycle of Yellow Dodder

Yellow dodder starts its life as a seed that germinates on the ground. Once it sprouts, the plant begins to grow in a helical shape, searching for a host plant to latch onto. The stem of the yellow dodder will wrap around the host plant and begin to burrow into the host's tissue. This process is known as "rootless parasitism" because the yellow dodder does not have roots and relies on its stem to absorb water and nutrients from the host plant.

Once the yellow dodder is attached to the host, it will begin to produce delicate, yellow flowers. These flowers are not just for show; they play an important role in the reproductive cycle of the plant. The flowers produce seeds that can germinate and start the cycle anew, infecting more host plants.

Impact on Host Plants

Although yellow dodder is a fascinating species, it is not a welcome sight for gardeners and farmers. The plant can have a significant impact on the host plant, reducing its overall health and productivity. The yellow dodder will consume large amounts of water and nutrients from the host, leaving it weakened and susceptible to other diseases. In severe cases, the yellow dodder can even kill the host plant.

Control and Management

Since yellow dodder is a parasitic plant, controlling its spread can be difficult. One of the most effective methods of control is to remove any infected plants and dispose of them properly. This will prevent the yellow dodder from producing seeds and spreading to other plants.

Another control method is to use herbicides that specifically target yellow dodder. These herbicides should be applied carefully to prevent damage to the host plant. In some cases, using a weed barrier or mulch around the base of the host plant can prevent the yellow dodder from attaching itself.

Yellow dodder is a unique and fascinating plant that has a significant impact on other plants. Although it is not a welcome sight for gardeners and farmers, understanding its life cycle and methods of control can help prevent its spread and protect other plants. Whether you're a gardener, farmer, or just someone who loves to learn about nature, yellow dodder is definitely a species worth exploring!

Beneficial Properties of Yellow Dodder

Despite its parasitic nature, yellow dodder does have some beneficial properties. For example, it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries as a tonic and to treat a variety of ailments, including skin disorders, arthritis, and digestive problems.

Additionally, yellow dodder has been studied for its potential as a bio-herbicide. When grown on certain weeds, it can act as a natural alternative to chemical herbicides, providing a safe and effective means of controlling weeds.

The plant also has ornamental value, with its delicate yellow flowers often used in dried flower arrangements. However, caution should be taken if using yellow dodder in gardens or landscapes, as it can quickly spread and become a problem.

Yellow Dodder and the Environment

Yellow dodder can have a negative impact on the environment by reducing the health and productivity of the host plants. This, in turn, can reduce the availability of food and habitat for wildlife that rely on these plants for survival. In addition, the spread of yellow dodder can displace native plant species and alter the balance of the ecosystem.

It's also important to note that yellow dodder can act as a vector for plant viruses, transmitting them from one plant to another. This can have serious consequences for agriculture, as entire crops can be destroyed by a single infected plant.

Conservation Efforts

Despite its potential impact on the environment, yellow dodder is not considered a threatened or endangered species. However, conservation efforts should still be taken to prevent its spread and protect native plant species. This can include monitoring and controlling populations, as well as promoting the use of natural alternatives, such as bio-herbicides, in agriculture.

Yellow dodder is a unique and fascinating species that has both positive and negative properties. While it can be a problem for gardeners, farmers, and the environment, understanding its life cycle, beneficial properties, and methods of control can help protect other plants and promote a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

Yellow Dodder and Climate Change

Climate change is having a significant impact on the world's ecosystems, and yellow dodder is no exception. Changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, and other environmental factors can affect the spread and behavior of this parasitic plant.

For example, changes in temperature and precipitation patterns can alter the timing of yellow dodder's flowering and seed production, potentially leading to changes in its distribution and impact on host plants. Additionally, shifts in the distribution of host plants could lead to changes in the distribution and abundance of yellow dodder.

Another way climate change may impact yellow dodder is through the increased spread of plant viruses. As temperatures rise, the range of pests and diseases that can survive in a given area may expand, leading to greater transmission of plant viruses and greater damage to crops.

Given these impacts, it is important to monitor yellow dodder populations and their impact on host plants in a changing climate, as well as to take steps to mitigate the effects of climate change on both the parasitic plant and its host plants.


Yellow dodder is a unique and fascinating species that is essential to understand and manage, especially in a rapidly changing climate. By monitoring its populations, controlling its spread, and promoting alternative means of weed control, we can help protect our ecosystems and the plants and wildlife that rely on them for survival. Whether you are a farmer, gardener, or simply interested in the natural world, yellow dodder is an important species to learn about and appreciate.