DODDER is a common name used to refer to a variety of species in the genus Cuscuta, which are relatives of Morning Glories (family Convolvulaceae).
In spite of their relatedness, Dodders can look very different from their glamorous cousins because they have inconspicuous flowers and bright orange-yellow stems.
In fact, the unusual color of these stems reflect an obscure truth about Dodders: their dependency on other plants to obtain food and water.
Dodders wrap tightly their flexible stems around the twigs of other plants and produce a specialized root-like structure called haustoria, which penetrate the host’s tissue and steal water and mineral nutrients from them.
Separating species of Dodders has always been a notoriously difficult task for taxonomists, and reliable species identification often require the assistance from specialists in this group such as Dr. Joel McNeal from Kennesaw State University.
There are over nine species of Cuscuta reported for the Caribbean islands, all of them with a wide distribution extending to continental areas: C. americana, C. boldinghii, C. campestris, C. globulosa, C. gronovii, C. indecora (varieties indecora and neuropetala), C. obtusiflora (variety glandulosa), C. pentagona, and C. umbellata.
Most species of Dodder share their habitat with another similar-looking parasitic plant: the Love Vine (Cassytha filiformis, Lauraceae). Love Vines are the only other parasitic plant in the Caribbean with twining stems, and they can be recognized by their greenish stems, elongated inflorescences with few spaced bright white flowers, and rounded fleshy fruits.
Dodder (Genus Cuscuta)
Yellow stems change to bright orange as they age