Dodder is considered a parasitic plant, unable to independently produce its own nourishment through the action of chlorophyll. For this reason, its survival is linked to the possibility of developing on top of other plants, from which it extracts the necessary nutrients. This results in a general weakening of the host plant. Considered by farmers to be an invasive and destructive species, dodder can cause considerable damage to the crops of some plant species, such as flax, beans, alfalfa and potatoes. The dodderit can also infest numerous ornamental plants, such as ivy, dahlias and chrysanthemums. Although it is not appreciated by farmers, dodder has remarkable medical properties, known and appreciated since ancient times.

The medical properties

Very appreciated in western phytotherapy, dodder is considered by experts to be a real panacea, able to cure and bring relief in ailments related to the liver, spleen and gallbladder. Slightly laxative, it is still used today by the most expert herbalists for the preparation of medicines capable of supporting liver function. The substances extracted from the plant have a bitter taste, and contribute to kidney function thanks to their diuretic power. Collected fresh and used for external use, dodder is able to help fight particular forms of dermatitis. Dodder has always played a very important role in Chinese medicine, so much so that today it is included among the nine plants that make up Equiguard, a medicine indicated for the treatment of prostate and kidney disorders.

Natural habitat

Dodder can be found in Europe, Asia, America and Africa. Its natural habitat is represented by plants of other species, from which it extracts nutrients. It is an annual plant about 30/40 cm tall, whitish or reddish in color, composed of a single filiform stem without leaves. The threadlike stem is used by dodder to wrap the host plant in a dense tangle. The affected plant, thus deprived of an important part of its nutrients, tends to irreparably weaken. The flowers are arranged in clusters along the stem, ranging from six to twelve for each cluster. Flowering occurs in the period between June and September, and the pedunculated flowers contain 3/4 tiny seeds capable of giving life to a new plant.

Cuscuta: Grubbing up

The threadlike stems of dodder can be yellow, whitish or red, but never green due to the total lack of chlorophyll which does not allow it to produce its own vital substances independently. To make up for this lack, it anchors itself to the stems and leaves of green plants, thus sucking their vital lymph. Rootless, it could not survive unless anchored to other species. Its devastating power was already known in ancient times, when the Romans who knew its characteristics renamed it with the name of the devil’s net. Its propagation in the infested areas occurs through the very small seed contained inside the flower, difficult to exterminate due to its characteristic resistance which allows it to remain able to germinate even for about ten years. The plant’s lack of chlorophyll makes attempts to eradicate it by using herbicides, except those based on propizamide not indicated in most crops, in vain. The only effective remedy to date seems to be manual uprooting of the shoots.

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