Cuscuta europaea (European dodder)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Impact: Biodiversity
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Cuscuta europaea L. (1753)
Preferred Common Name
- European dodder
Other Scientific Names
- Cuscuta halophyta Fr. (1832)
- Cuscuta laxiflora Aznav., non Benth. (1905)
- Cuscuta major DC. (1671)
- Cuscuta viciae W.D.J. Koch, Schnitzl. & Schönh. (1853)
International Common Names
- English: greater dodder
- French: cuscute d'Europe
Local Common Names
- China: ou zhou to si zi
- Czech Republic: kokotice evropska
- Germany: Europäische Seide
- Italy: cuscuta
- Japan: kushironenashikazura
- Netherlands: groot warkruid
- Spain: cabellos de venus
- Sweden: naesselsnaerja
- CVCEU (Cuscuta europaea)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Solanales
- Family: Cuscutaceae
- Genus: Cuscuta
- Species: Cuscuta europaea
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Many synonyms have been applied to C. europaea, but none are any longer in common use. Yuncker (1932), who lists many synonyms, recognizes two varieties, var. indica and var. conocarpa, but Feinbrun (1970) concludes that although the species shows some variation it is not sufficiently consistent to allow delineation of subspecies or varieties.
DescriptionTop of page
Fritsche et al. (1958) provide detailed descriptions of the anatomy and morphology of C. europaea.
Plant TypeTop of page
Vine / climber
DistributionTop of page
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Hebei||Present||Native||Original citation: Wang et al. (1990)|
|-Jammu and Kashmir||Present||Native|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Present||Native|
|Russia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Russian Far East||Present||Native|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|New Zealand||Present, Localized||Introduced|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Dry heat at 100°C for 15 minutes has been shown to selectively kill seeds of Cuscuta spp. in nigerseed (Guizotia abyssinica) (Strasser, 1988) providing a means of de-contaminating contaminated imports, but it is not certain that this is being used in practice.
HabitatTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Aegopodium podagraria (ground elder (UK))||Apiaceae||Wild host|
|Allium cepa (onion)||Liliaceae||Main|
|Alnus (alders)||Betulaceae||Wild host|
|Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort)||Asteraceae||Wild host|
|Astragalus stipulatus||Fabaceae||Wild host|
|Beta vulgaris (beetroot)||Chenopodiaceae||Main|
|Crataegus monogyna (hawthorn)||Rosaceae||Wild host|
|Humulus lupulus (hop)||Cannabaceae||Other|
|Mentha (mints)||Lamiaceae||Wild host|
|Rubus idaeus (raspberry)||Rosaceae||Other|
|Salix (willows)||Salicaceae||Wild host|
|Urtica dioica (stinging nettle)||Urticaceae||Wild host|
|Vicia faba (faba bean)||Fabaceae||Other|
|Vicia sativa (common vetch)||Fabaceae||Other|
Growth StagesTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Chromosome number 2n = 14.
Physiology and Phenology
Cuscuta species are obligate parasites with negligible chlorophyll, totally dependent on attachment to a host plant within a few days after germination. Germination does not depend on the presence of host plants but occurs over a prolonged period as there is a proportion of hard-coated seeds which gradually become permeable and allow absorption of water. This ensures that not too many seeds germinate at one time in the possible absence of a potential host plant. In many species, there is also an innate dormancy which is broken by chilling over the winter. In eastern Lithuania, germination of C. europaea was shown to be abundant after rain at the end of May and beginning of June when the sum of effective temperatures exceeded 250°C (Gal'vidis, 1993). On germination a very short root is formed which provides anchorage only, while the plumule elongates rapidly and, in the light, circumnutates widely anticlockwise until contact is made with a stem or other solid object. The length of the seedling rarely exceeds 10 cm and if a host is not located, the seedling dies within a few days. Once contact with a stem or other object is made, the shoot will twine around it, whether living or inanimate and the root and shoot base below this point will soon die. The coiling action requires blue or far-red light and is suppressed under red light or darkness. If a suitable host stem is found, several coils will develop, with pre-haustorial swellings on the inner face of the coiled stem, from which full haustoria develop in the presence of cytokinins, which derive partly from the parasite and partly from the host. Intrusive organs develop from the haustorium and searching hyphae penetrate the host tissues by a combination of separation and penetration of cells (these processes are reviewed by Parker and Riches, 1993). Connections are then formed by a bridge of tracheids with the host xylem, while connection with the phloem via plasmodesmata between searching hyphae and host parenchyma cells has also been confirmed by Dorr (1987). Once the haustorial connection is complete, new shoot buds develop close by. While some Cuscuta species, notably C. reflexa, have measurable levels of chlorophyll and photosynthesis, Machado and Zetsche (1990) failed to find either in C. europaea, and further development is completely at the host's expense.
Vegetative growth may continue for some time before any flowers are formed, or flowering may occur very rapidly. Flowering is thought by some authors to be linked to the flowering of the host plant but this is not apparently consistent.
Fritsche et al. (1958) provide detailed observations on the growth and flowering of C. europaea.
Cuscuta species are propagated mainly by seed, though individual plants may spread vegetatively over many separate host plants. Stem fragments may also be able to establish new plants, though it is not known whether this can occur with C. europaea.
There are no specialized dispersal methods for Cuscuta species and without the assistance of man or animals, it is presumed to depend on soil or water movement (Dawson et al., 1994.)
The mainly temperate distribution of C. europaea suggests that this species is dependent on a cool or cold winter period for 'stratification' and breakage of seed dormancy. There is no evidence of association with particular soil types, or level of soil fertility, nor any requirement for especially moist or dry conditions.
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||8||22|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||17||39|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||-10||9|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||0||9||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||250||1200||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Melanagromyza cuscutae||Herbivore||Fruits|pods; Plants|Stems|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Natural, non-biotic, dispersal of Cuscuta seed is very limited and must occur mainly by water.
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
Animals may help spread of Cuscuta on an occasional basis following ingestion, or by transfer of soil containing the seeds.
Man is by far the most important dispersal agent, thanks to the harvesting and transport of crop material contaminated with vines and seeds of Cuscuta, and by movement of soil on farm machinery.
Accidental introduction across national boundaries can quite readily occur when Cuscuta seed is a contaminant of crop seed, as it may well be in seed of clovers or lucerne.
Intentional introduction is relatively unlikely, though any Cuscuta species could occasionally be regarded as a botanical curiosity and introduced for this reason.
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx||weeds/seeds; weeds/stems; weeds/whole plants|
|Fruits (inc. pods)||weeds/seeds|
|Growing medium accompanying plants||weeds/seeds|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||weeds/seeds|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page
There are occasional reports of toxicity to livestock from Cuscuta species, including toxicity to horses from C. europaea (Pergat and Stolyarova, 1961).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page
Social ImpactTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
C. europaea has recently been reported to be a source of an immuno-stimulant compound of pharmacological interest (Stanilova at al., 2001).
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Severova (1991) describes a range of characters useful for distinguishing different Cuscuta spp., including C. europaea. The most comprehensive key is provided by Yuncker (1932). Keys to the European species are provided in Flora Europaea (Valentine, 1972) and by Feinbrun (1970).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Cultural Control
Use of clean crop seed is vital. Seed crops which might have been infested should be inspected and cleaned if necessary, or seed should be obtained from a source known to be reliable. Separation of Cuscuta seeds from lucerne is quite successfully achieved by equipment comprising felt- or velvet-covered rollers to which the rough seeds of Cuscuta stick while the smoother crop seeds pass over (see Dawson et al., 1994).
Rotation with non-susceptible crops can be helpful. Cereals are virtually immune, but some broad-leaved crops may also be sufficiently resistant, including soyabean, kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), squash (Cucurbita sp.), cucumber and cotton (see Parker and Riches, 1993).
Deep shade suppresses the coiling and attachment of Cuscuta; hence encouraging a dense crop canopy is a valuable component of any integrated control programme.
The young seedlings of Cuscuta, with rudimentary roots, are readily destroyed by shallow tillage before or after crop establishment. Hand-pulling is suitable only for scattered infestations as the infested crop plants have to be removed with the parasite. Scattered infestations of C. campestris have also been controlled by heat, using a hand-held flame gun. More extensive infestations of that species in lucerne are also sometimes treated with overall flaming, as the crop is able to recover. Close mowing is an alternative means of control in lucerne and clovers.
There is relatively little information on the use of herbicides against C. europaea but good results have been reported for ethofumesate in sugar beet; propyzamide in sugar beet and onions; and a mixture of chlorthal-dimethyl with chlorpropham in onions and carrots (Foschi and Rapparini, 1977; Rapparini and Campagna, 1998). Other herbicides of value in the control of other Cuscuta species, especially C. campestris, include metham-sodium and dazomet as pre-planting fumigants, trifluralin and related compounds, pendimethalin, fluchloralin, butralin etc, in lucerne and some other legumes. These might be expected to be equally effective against C. europaea.
Biological control of C. europaea has been attempted in Kazakhstan, by augmentative release of Melanagromyza cuscutae but the outcome is not certain (Julien and Griffiths, 1998). This insect has also failed to give convincing results on other Cuscuta spp. The biology and host range of M. cuscutae were studied by Baloch et al. (1967) and reviewed by Spencer (1973).
Other attempts at biological control of Cuscuta spp. by insects have mainly involved the gall-forming weevils Smicronyx spp.; S. tartaricus has given encouraging results for control of C. europaea in Kazakhstan when introduced from one region to another (Shinkarenko, 1982b), while among pathogens, Alternaria cuscutacidae and a form of Colletotrichum gloeosporioides [Glomerella cingulata] have given helpful results against C. chinensis and C. australis (Parker and Riches, 1993; Julien and Griffiths, 1998).
Prospects for biological control of C. europaea and other Cuscuta spp. have been reviewed by Girling et al. (1979).
Integrated methods for control of Cuscuta species generally involve the all-important use of clean seed; good field hygiene to eradicate scattered infestations before they get out of control; good control of other weeds which might act as reservoirs of infestation; timing of tillage and planting to maximize destruction of parasite seedlings before sowing; and optimum planting arrangement and growing conditions for a good crop canopy to suppress development of the weed.
ReferencesTop of page
Anderson DM, 1974. Some species of Smicronyx (Coleoptera:Curculionidae) associated with Cuscuta species (Convolvulaceae) in Pakistan. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 76(4):359-374
Baloch GM; Mohyuddin AI; Ghani MA, 1967. Biological control of Cuscuta spp. II. Biology and host plant range of Melanogromyza cuscutae Hering (Dipt. Agromyzidae). Entomophaga, 12:481-489.
Fang Rhui-cheng; Musselman LJ; Plitmann U, 1995. 20. Cuscuta Linnaeus, Sp. Pl, 1:124.1753. Flora of China Volume 16. St Louis, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden, 322-325.
Feinbrun N, 1970. A taxonomic review of European Cuscutae. Israel Journal of Botany, 19:16-29.
Foschi S; Rapparini G, 1977. The control of Cuscuta campestris Yunck and Cuscuta europea L. Proceedings of the EWRS Symposium on Different Methods of Weed Control and their Integration, Uppsala, 1977., Volume 1:129-137
Fritsche E; Bouillenne-Walrand M; Bouillenne R, 1958. Some observations on the biology of Cuscuta europaea. [in French] Bulletin de l'Academie Belgique, 43(3):163-187.
Grierson AJC; Long DG, 1999. Flora of Bhutan including a record of plants from Sikkim and Darjeeling. Vol. 2, Pt 2. Edinburgh, UK: Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh and Royal Government of Bhutan.
Holm LG; Doll J; Holm E; Pancho JV; Herberger JP, 1997. World Weeds: Natural Histories and Distribution. New York, USA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Julien MH; Griffiths MW, 1998. Biological control of weeds: a world catalogue of agents and their target weeds. Biological control of weeds: a world catalogue of agents and their target weeds., Ed. 4:x + 223 pp.
Parasitic Plant Connection, 2003. http://www.science.siu.edu/parasitic-plants/index.html.
Pergat FF; Stolyarova AG, 1961. Clinical and pathological changes in horses poisoned with Cuscuta brevifolia. [in Russian] Trudy Uzbekhistan Nauchnoissled. Inst. Vet., 14:239-247.
PLANTS, 2003. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Plants Profile Online Database at: http://plants.usda.gov/cgi_bin/topics.cgi.
Polunin O; Stainton A, 1987. Concise Flowers of the Himalaya. Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.
Severova E, 1991. New taxonomic characters in the genus Cuscuta (Cuscutaceae). Proceedings of the 5th international symposium of parasitic weeds, Nairobi, Kenya, 24-30 June 1991 [edited by Ransom, J.K.; Musselman, L.J.; Worsham, A.D.] Nairobi, Kenya; CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), 514-518
Spencer KA, 1973. Agromyzidae (Diptera) of economic importance. Series Entomologica, Vol. 9. The Hague, The Netherlands: Dr W Junk BV.
Stanilova S; Dobreva Z; Zhelev Z, 2001. Changes in serum levels of cytokines in mice injected with an immunostimulator C3bgp isolated from Cuscuta europaea. International Immunopharmacology, 1(8):1597-1604; 26 ref.
Stefanovic S; Krueger L; Olmstead RG, 2002. Monophily of the Convolvulaceae and circumscription of their major lineages based on DNA sequences of multiple chloroplast loci. American Journal of Botany, 89:1510-1522.
USDA, 2003. USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network Online Database at: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html.
Valentine DH, ed. , 1972. CXLVI Convolvulaceae. In: Tutin TG, Heywood VH, Burges NA, Moore DM, Valentine DH, Walters SM, Webb DA, eds. Flora Europaea Volume 3. Diapensiaceae to Myoporaceae. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 74-83.
Wang Z; Xin M; Ma D, eds. , 1990. Farmland Weeds of China. Beijing, China: Agricultural Publishing House.
Webb CJ; Sykes WR; Garnock-Jones PJ, 1988. Flora of New Zealand Volume IV. Naturalised Pteridophytes, Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Christchurch, New Zealand: DSIR Botany Division, 1365 pp. http://floraseries.landcareresearch.co.nz/pages/Book.aspx?fileName=Flora%204.xml
Wolswinkel P, 1979. Transport of assimilates and mineral elements at the site of attachment of Cuscuta. The role of phloem unloading in the parasitic relationship. Proceedings, Second International Symposium on Parasitic Weeds, North Carolina, 1979., 156-164
Wolswinkel P; Ammerlaan A, 1983. Sucrose and hexose release by excised stem segments of Vicia faba L. The sucrose-specific stimulating influence of Cuscuta on sugar release and the activity of acid invertase. Journal of Experimental Botany, 34(148):1516-1527
Yuncker TG, 1932. The genus Cuscuta. Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club, 18:113-331.
CABI, Undated. Compendium record. Wallingford, UK: CABI
CABI, Undated a. CABI Compendium: Status inferred from regional distribution. Wallingford, UK: CABI
CABI, Undated b. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI
Fang Rhui-cheng, Musselman LJ, Plitmann U, 1995. (20. Cuscuta Linnaeus). In: Flora of China, St Louis, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden. 322-25.
Grierson AJC, Long DG, 1999. Flora of Bhutan including a record of plants from Sikkim and Darjeeling., 2 (2) Edinburgh, UK: Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh and Royal Government of Bhutan.
PLANTS, 2003. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Plants Profile Online Database., http://plants.usda.gov/cgi_bin/topics.cgi
Polunin O, Stainton A, 1987. Concise Flowers of the Himalaya., Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.
USDA, 2003. USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network Online Database., http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html
Valentine DH, 1972. CXLVI Convolvulaceae. In: Flora Europaea Volume 3. Diapensiaceae to Myoporaceae, [ed. by Tutin TG, Heywood VH, Burges NA, Moore DM, Valentine DH, Walters SM, Webb DA]. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 74-83.
Webb C J, Sykes W R, Garnock-Jones P J, 1988. Flora of New Zealand, Volume IV: Naturalised pteridophytes, gymnosperms, dicotyledons. Christchurch, New Zealand: Botany Division, DSIR. 1365 pp. http://floraseries.landcareresearch.co.nz/pages/Book.aspx?fileName=Flora%204.xml
Distribution MapsTop of page
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