California Dodder

Common Names:
California Dodder
Scientific name:
Cuscuta californica
Flowering Months:
February, March, April, May, June, July, August
Life Cycle | Lifeform:
Vine
Notes:
Parasite/Hemiparasite
State Occurrences:
Desert region:
Great Basin, Mojave, Sonoran
Comments: 

California Dodder is a very unusual fully-parasitic plant that is very conspicuous in the desert due to its neon orange color. It creeps over bushes sometimes making them completely orange. Its vining quality comes from the fact that it is in the Morning Glory family. It appears as mostly fleshy stems that project haustoria (protuberances that attach to host plant). It does have tiny leaves that are little more that scales along the plant stems because they do not need to conduct photosynthesis since the plant receives its nutrients directly from the host plant. Dodder also does have tiny urn-shaped flowers.

California Dodder 1

California Dodder in the desert

This small Burrobush has been completely taken over by a mass of Cuscata californica. The future is bleak for its host. Death Valley National Park | January 29, 2016  

California Dodder 2

California Dodder in the desert

Cuscata californica is a parasite plant, taking its nutrition from the host, which in this case is Burrobush. Death Valley National Park | January 2016   

California Dodder 3

California Dodder in the desert

Cuscata californica looks like a mass of spaghetti on this small Creosote Bush. Death Valley National Park | January 2016   

California Dodder 4

California Dodder in the desert

Close view of Cuscata californica illustrating its stem-like tendrils that climb along and through the host plant. Flowers (not shown here) are tiny and white. Death Valley National Park | January 28, 2016   

California Dodder 5

California Dodder in the desert

Cuscata californica living on its host plant, Blackbrush. It may eventually kill the host. Pipes Canyon, CA | May 24, 2010   

California Dodder 6

California Dodder in the desert

Cuscata californica is an beige-orange parasite that climbs vine-like across its host plant, in this case, Blackbrush. Pipes Canyon, CA | May 2010