Dodder

Dodder Detail

This spring, an obviously parasitic plant caught my eye in the Inyo Mountains. Some research revealed it to be dodder, and it’s interesting, albeit rather creepy, stuff:

It has long been known that dodders are “vampire-like” parasitic plants. Like a nightmare from an alien horror film, the dodder wraps itself around its host. It then uses a long probe to literally tap into its victim and drain their fluids.

Researchers had done previous work that found that when the dodder first sinks its “fang” into its victim, it also begins to transport RNA – the DNA translator – between it and its host.

This latest study expands on that, finding that a surprising amount of messenger RNA (mRNA) is constantly being exchanged between both plants during the parasitic relationship….

….like any true vampire, the dodder has a “silver tongue,” sweet-talking its victim into lowering its defenses.

Here it is having its way with a blooming shrub:

Dodder_800px

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2 thoughts on “Dodder

  1. I have read about Dodder but never consciously seen it. It is a lot more impressive in your photos than in the diagrams and close – ups I have seen in books!

    The only parasitic plants I know are the relatively benign mistletoes in our home country woodlands– the “Golden Bough” of mythology, spread by birds– and the much more dramatic strangler figs in the tropics. But in St Croix, where I think I remember stranglers too, I saw a parasitic, obvious mistletoe, as big as a temperate apple tree, growing over and dominating some poor host plant!

    • Thanks Steve! The dodder is striking stuff in its twining stringiness, and because it lives in such harsh desert landscapes. I’d sure like to see a strangler fig someday, but I suppose dodder is our Mojave Desert equivalent.

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