Monday, October 06, 2014


I`M GETTING DODDERY...

One of my new discoveries during last week`s walks along the South West Coast Path was this extraordinary looking plant.  It`s Dodder and being in the sad state I find myself these days, I became quite fascinated by the strange `lifestyle` of Dodder.  This particular lump of Dodder had taken up residence on a gorse bush along the coast path between East Portlemouth and Gammon Head in the south Devon stretch and there were a few other examples along the way.

Now, Dodder is a annual parasitic plant which is found mostly in tropical climes.   However, four species are found in Europe and in late Spring a slender stem emerges from germinating over-wintered seeds.  This slender stem then entwines itself (always anti-clockwise) around the nearest host plant within reaching distance.   Its growth at this stage depends entirely on food reserves contained in its seed - Dodder has no chlorophyll and therefore cannot photosynthesise.  But once established, the lower part of the stem withers and falls away, leaving the Dodder to depend entirely on its unfortunate host, from which it takes sugar and other nutrients through suckers that penetrate the host`s stem and branches.  The host is quickly engulfed in a tangled cloak of incredibly fine threads, giving rise to the kind of colourful appearance shown in my photo.

There`s much more to it than that, of course, but I have begun to develop a weird kind of interest in this extraordinary plant.  And so I`m thinking of setting up a closed F***book group so that like-minded people can share their sightings, their experiences and their interest in the strange yet compelling world of Dodder - I anticipate a limited audience. And you will by now have rightly concluded that such is the extent of my summer-departing, winter-approaching, septuagenarian  sadness that I can now also claim to be getting hopelessly and genuinely doddery.

2 comments:

Ray Turner said...

That's fascinating Snopper. A very colourful plant. Is Dodder classed as an invasive species, a weed, something to be destroyed, or is it tolerated in the wild...?

Cultivated even..?

I'll join your Facebook group when I find it. It is not showing up in search results at the moment.

Snopper said...

Much more here, Ray - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuscuta

(Highlight the link, right click, then click on `Go to.......)