Saturday, August 18, 2012

devil's guts?

Beaked dodder (Cuscuta rostrata)

And there it was, beaked dodder growing on both sides of Clingman’ s Dome Road in the Great Smokies.

Could there be a spookier plant? A more devilish succubus?

Also known as devil's guts, devil's hair, golden thread, hair weed, hellbine, strangleweed or witch's hair—now, there’s a collection of memorable names that H. P. Lovecraft would have loved—dodder is a parasitic plant. Its orange tendrils slowly reach out and attach themselves to healthy, green plants. At first, it's like a gentle caress.

But here’s what happens next. Are you sitting down?

After a dodder attaches itself to a plant, it wraps around it tighter and tighter. If the host contains food beneficial to the dodder, it produces haustoria (essentially roots) that insert themselves into the vascular system of the host. The original root of the dodder in the soil then dies. It’s no longer needed. The dodder can grow yards and yards long, latching itself onto even more plants. In this way, the dodder slowly spreads in all directions, feeding on the plants it has entwined.

This sounds like something out of a George Romero movie, night-of-the-living-dead kind of stuff. Although, perhaps it’s even creepier because it is real and we all know that zombies are not. Right?

Wait a minute! Did I just hear something gently scratching on my window?

Devil's guts spreading in all directions. Creepy!!


Gwendolyn said...

Ack! That's terrifying!

Stephen Lyn Bales said...

Yes. Scared me too.

I do not know if you have such in the UK, but watch out for it.

Marie (once The Tile Lady) said...


Patricia K. Lichen said...

Yeeks--is it native?