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Published In: Species Plantarum 1: 124. 1753. (1 May 1753) (Sp. Pl.) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 8/11/2017)
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Project Data     (Last Modified On 7/23/2009)


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3. Cuscuta L. (dodder, love vine)

(Yuncker, 1943)

Plants parasitic on the aboveground portions of other plants. Stems twining, glabrous, greenish yellow, yellow, or orange, often forming tangled mats and attaching to host tissues by suckerlike haustoria. Leaves alternate, consisting of small, lanceolate or ovate, sessile scales 1–4 mm long. Inflorescences sessile or stalked clusters along stems, sometimes appearing as small panicles. Flowers with the surface smooth or densely and minutely papillose (warty or bumpy), sometimes also with scattered resinous (pellucid-glandular) cells. Calyces 3–5(6)-lobed, sometimes deeply divided to form separate sepals. Corollas white, rarely greenish, 3–5(6)-lobed, the lobes erect to recurved, the tips sometimes incurved. Stamens with a scalelike appendage (infrastaminal scale) attached to the corolla tube below the attachment point of the filament, this infrastaminal scale with a toothed or fringed margin. Ovary 2-locular. Styles 2, each with a capitate (linear elsewhere) stigma. Fruits papery-walled capsules, usually with an aperture between stigmas, breaking open irregularly (with circumscissile dehiscence elsewhere). Seeds usually 2–4 per fruit, brown. About 145 species. Nearly worldwide.

Contrary to some reports, Cuscuta species do produce chlorophyll, although in reduced quantities. Some species of dodder are important agricultural pests and have been spread as contaminants in crop seeds. Species identification in the genus is challenging and requires a hand lens. Details of the flowers are easiest to observe in fresh specimens or in plants that have been dried without pressing. Most dodders parasitize a wide variety of host species, and determination of the host is usually not an aid in Cuscuta identification.


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1 1. Calyces deeply divided to form separate or nearly distinct sepals; each flower subtended by 2 to several scalelike bracts

2 2. Flowers stalked, in paniculate clusters; bracts oval to ovate, bluntly pointed at the tip ... 5. C. CUSPIDATA

Cuscuta cuspidata
3 2. Flowers sessile, in dense clusters along the stem

4 3. Bracts appressed to base of flower or erect, oval to orbicular and rounded at the tip ... 3. C. COMPACTA

Cuscuta compacta
5 3. Bracts spreading to recurved, narrowly lanceolate to oblanceolate and pointed at the tip ... 6. C. GLOMERATA

Cuscuta glomerata
6 1. Calyces lobed 1/2–2/3 of the way to base, a distinct fused portion observable; flowers not regularly subtended by scalelike bracts (occasionally 1 bract present at base of some flowers)

7 4. Surface of the flowers with dense, minute papillae; corolla lobes sharply pointed at the tip

8 5. Calyces and corollas mostly 4-lobed; infrastaminal scales not reaching filament bases, reduced to 2 narrow, toothed, lobes of tissue ... 4. C. CORYLI

Cuscuta coryli
9 5. Calyces and corollas mostly 5-lobed; infrastaminal scales reaching filament bases, well developed and fringed along the margins ... 8. C. INDECORA

Cuscuta indecora
10 4. Surface of the flowers not papillose (sometimes slightly irregular in texture when dried); corolla lobes sharply to bluntly pointed at the tip

11 6. Calyces and corollas mostly 3- or 4-lobed

12 7. Corolla lobes rounded or bluntly pointed at the tip; corolla tube much longer than the calyx and extending past tips of calyx lobes ... 2. C. CEPHALANTHI

Cuscuta cephalanthi
13 7. Corolla lobes sharply pointed at the tip; corolla tube shorter than to as long as the calyx and not extending past tips of calyx lobes ... 10. C. POLYGONORUM

Cuscuta polygonorum
14 6. Calyces and corollas mostly 5-lobed

15 8. Calyx appearing 5-angled by overlapping lobes that project where they overlap; corolla lobes sharply pointed and often appearing tapered at the tip ... 9. C. PENTAGONA

Cuscuta pentagona
16 8. Calyx appearing rounded in cross-section (although the lobes may overlap basally); corolla lobes either sharply pointed or rounded to bluntly pointed

17 9. Calyx lobes usually extending to top of corolla tube or nearly so; corolla lobes sharply pointed, often appearing tapered at the tip; fruits depressed-globose, the wall not thickened at the tip ... 1. C. CAMPESTRIS

Cuscuta campestris
18 9. Calyx lobes usually extending to middle of corolla tube; corolla lobes rounded or bluntly pointed; fruits globose to globose-conical, the wall usually thickened at the tip ... 7. C. GRONOVII Cuscuta gronovii
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