California dodder is a leafless, parasitic, viney
plant with slender orange to yellowy stems which are each fastened to
their host organism by means of a knobby root-like structure called
a haustoria, which allows it to draw its nourishment from the
host. If any leaves are present, they are minute and scale-like.
The flowers are small, white, squat, urn-shaped, and arranged
in loose cymose or paniculate clusters. Both calyx and corolla
are 5-cleft, the calyx somewhat shorter than the corolla tube with spreading to recurved lobes, and the corolla shallowly campanulate with lanceolate,
acute, spreading to reflexed lobes. The fruit is a globose capsule
with light brown and rounded seeds somewhat flattened on two sides.
There are several species of dodder in Southern California and
they tend to be fairly specific to host plants, but I have found this
not always to be the case. The one here, species californica,
seems to be mostly partial to the buckwheats, sages, deerweed and Haplopappus.
It can be differentiated from any other dodder species that might
grow in the same area by the length of the corolla appendages, which
are small scale-like structures with somewhat irregularly laciniate
tips attached to the corolla at the base of the stamens. Californica
appendages are either lacking or very short, to 0.1 mm, while other
species have appendages that are from 0.7 to 2.5 mm. Subinclusa
is the other common dodder and it has slender flowers with long tubes
with petal tips that mostly stay straight out and absent or very short
stamen filaments. It also tends to be more orangey than yellow.
California dodder inhabits many plant communities from sea level
to 8200' in most of cismontane California and occasionally on the deserts,
and blooms from May to July.
Click here for Latin name derivations: 1) Cuscuta
Pronunciation: koos-KOO-ta ka-li-FOR-ni-ka.
Click here for Botanical