Recently I posted about a bizarre plant, but lamented that it was not yet in flower. I kept checking back on the dodder (Cuscuta sp.). Finally there are flowers, in prodigious quantities.
Related to the morning glory family, dodder has numerous, tiny, white, waxy, bell-shaped flowers located in clusters along the orange, leafless stem. The petals are united and end in spreading lobes. As can be seen in the pictures, numerous is an understatement for the number of flowers produced by dodder. Each flower will produce a small fruit containing four seeds. When ripe the seeds drop to the ground near the dodder plant ready to germinate again. Although they are barely visible to the naked eye, I think dodder flowers themselves are beautiful.
In addition to reproducing by seed, when dodder, an annual, dies back in the winter it sometimes leaves living haustoria (sucker like attachments used to tap the host plant’s nutrients) in the host. In the spring these haustoria can grow into new plants, already attached to the host – a little creepy if you ask me.
An interesting factoid: dodder stems always twine in a counter-clockwise direction.
The pictured dodder are growing in the McArthur Swamp (Shasta County CA). and are the same plants pictured in my earlier post on dodder. More information about dodder can be found in this previous post.