Cuscuta californica Hook & Arn. var. californica

California Dodder
Convolvulaceae (Dodder Family)


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 2) californica.
Pronunciation: koos-KOO-ta ka-li-FOR-ni-ka.
Click here for Botanical Term Meanings.