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Cuscuta spp. (dodders) are rootless, holoparasitic herbs with filiform stems attached to the host by numerous haustoria. In Canada, Cuscuta gronovii is the most common native species of the genus followed by Cuscuta campestris and C. umbrosa. Cuscuta epithymum and C. epilinum, both introduced species in Canada, occur occasionally. Infestation by Cuscuta spp. can result in serious yield losses and dodders are listed as noxious weeds in British Columbia, Ontario and Québec, and as restricted weeds in Alberta. These plants have evolved special adaptations to ensure their success: germination occurs late in the season when potential hosts are already established; seedlings selectively forage in plant communities and they may survive relatively long periods during the autotrophic stage. Invasion occurs via extremely elaborate mechanisms designed to match the biological processes of their host and bypass defense mechanisms. The principal means of dispersal of Cuscuta weeds world-wide (including Canada) has been through contaminated seeds of previously infested forage legumes. In other areas (e.g., Israel), C. campestris has developed resistance to ALS inhibitors (chlorsulfuron, and sulfometuron-methyl) and AABI herbicides. Complete descriptions and illustrations are provided for discussed species.


This article was originally published in Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 86(1): 293-316. © 2006 Agricultural Institute of Canada

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