Dodder Cuscuta spp.
IDENTIFICATION – Dodder is a parasite with suckerlike roots that penetrate into another plant’s stem to gather nutrients and water. It looks like yellow-orange, stringy spaghetti twining through garden plants.
The seeds germinate in the soil, and the seedlings bend to find a host plant. If they don’t find one, they die. When the search is successful, the connection to the soil breaks and the seedling fastens onto the host to begin feeding. It reaches for more plants, branching and spreading rapidly, eventually strangling and exhausting them. Small, white flowers bloom throughout the growing season, producing hard-coated seeds that can quickly germinate.
CONTROL – Pull and destroy infested plants. Or cut a branch below where the dodder has attached itself. Do not add it to the compost pile since each piece of dodder can regrow independently if it finds a living host. Pre-emergent herbicides are an effective control for dodder. Apply them in early spring and again in midsummer. Careful cultivation and a thick layer of organic mulch will also help keep it from getting too attached to your garden.