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Greater Dodder

Cuscuta europaea

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Convolvulaceae (Bindweed)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre long
Ditches, fields, grassland, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, wasteland, waterside.

Pink, 5 petals
Globular clusters of small pinkish-white, bell-shaped, stalked flowers. The clusters are about 1cm in diameter. Flowers have either 4 or 5 petals. 5 stamens. The flowers of Greater Dodder are in larger heads (10 to 15mm in diameter) than those of the similar looking Dodder (Cuscuta epithymum). The stamens of Greater Dodder are also much shorter and its host is usually nettle.
A pale brown, 4-parted capsule.
An annual, rootless plant with triangular, scale-like leaves (with rounded ends). The plant looks leafless since the scales are so hard to notice. The twining stems are red (sometimes yellow) and threadlike. A parasitic plant whose host is normally nettle. Occasionally this plant uses hop and other species as its host.
Other Names:
Common Dodder, European Dodder.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Cuscuta europaea, also known as common dodder or European dodder, 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 europaea 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 europaea 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.


Greater Dodder: The Parasitic Plant that Captivates

Have you ever come across a plant that doesn't seem to have any roots, but still manages to grow and flourish? This plant is called Greater Dodder (Cuscuta europaea), a parasitic plant that grows on other plants. In this blog, we will delve into the fascinating world of Greater Dodder and learn about its unique biology and behavior.

Greater Dodder is a plant species native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. It belongs to the genus Cuscuta, a group of parasitic plants that derive their nutrients and water from other plants. Greater Dodder is a twining plant, meaning it wraps its stem around a host plant and begins to feed on it. The plant has a thin, vine-like stem with small, yellowish-green leaves and tiny white or yellow flowers.

One of the most notable features of Greater Dodder is its lack of roots. When it germinates, it relies on its stem to search for a suitable host plant. Once the stem comes into contact with a host plant, it begins to wrap around it and send out root-like structures called haustoria. The haustoria penetrate the host plant's tissues and extract water and nutrients from it. This allows the Greater Dodder to grow and thrive, even though it does not have its own roots.

Another fascinating aspect of Greater Dodder is its ability to change its host plant. If its current host plant is not providing enough nutrients or is becoming unhealthy, the plant can detach itself and move to a new host. This ability makes Greater Dodder highly adaptable and allows it to grow in a variety of different environments.

Despite its parasitic nature, Greater Dodder has some benefits for the ecosystem. For one, it provides a habitat for insects and other small animals, who use the plant as a source of food and shelter. Additionally, Greater Dodder can help control the growth of invasive species. When the plant grows on an invasive plant, it can restrict its growth and prevent it from spreading.

Greater Dodder is a truly remarkable plant that captures the attention of botanists and laypeople alike. Its ability to grow without roots and change its host plant make it a fascinating subject for study. Although it is considered a parasite, it also has some positive benefits for the ecosystem. Whether you are a plant enthusiast or simply someone who loves to learn about the natural world, Greater Dodder is a plant that is sure to captivate.

Aside from its biological significance, Greater Dodder has also been used for medicinal purposes in traditional medicine. The plant is said to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including skin irritations, wounds, and digestive problems. In some cultures, the plant is also believed to have spiritual significance and is used in spiritual and religious practices.

Despite its benefits, Greater Dodder can also be a major problem for farmers and gardeners. Because it feeds on other plants, it can cause significant damage to crops and ornamental plants. The plant is also difficult to control, as it has a complex life cycle and can spread quickly from one host plant to another.

To combat the spread of Greater Dodder, there are several methods that can be used, including physical removal, herbicides, and biological control. Physical removal involves manually removing the plant from its host and disposing of it properly. Herbicides can be effective, but they can also harm non-target plants, so they should be used with caution. Biological control involves the use of natural predators, such as insects, to control the population of Greater Dodder.

In conclusion, Greater Dodder is a plant species that elicits both fascination and frustration. Its unique biology and behavior make it a fascinating subject of study, while its parasitic nature can cause significant damage to crops and ornamental plants. To balance the positive and negative aspects of this plant, it is important to understand its biology and behavior, and to use appropriate control methods when necessary.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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