Having put up (don’t you just love that?) over 20 pounds of summer squash the other day, and having shelled four pounds of blackeyed peas (that’s four pounds of shelled peas) yesterday, we were going to pickle some jalapenos and make some pesto today. We’ll still do the pickling, but there will be no pesto today.
|The basil I picked yesterday. And yes, I put it in the guest bath. Where else would I put so much basil?|
I thought about it, and then thought better of it.
This, fellow gardeners, is Dodder also known as Strangle Weed for obvious reasons. Dodder is a true parasitic plant. Why God designed this obnoxious life form and Evolution hasn’t culled it from The Face of The Earth is beyond me.*
I kept up with it for several weeks by pulling the strands out one at a time. But what with Independence Day and so on, it got away from me. The only way to get rid of it when there’s this much is to pull or cut the host out completely. Silly me, I thought I could salvage enough basil for pesto but decided against it.
From a physiological standpoint, Strangle Weed is quite interesting.
It’s an angiosperm, so it has flowers (very very tiny but visible), and so seeds (each flower produces thousands). Under favorable conditions, the seeds germinate. I came across one abstract describing the truncated root system of the seedling. Sounds like the seeds germinate “normally” but after just a few cell divisions, Dodder takes a different path than its relatives in the morning glory family. If the seedlings, with a truncated root system, don’t find a host within a few days, they die.
If they do find a host– and I’m not clear on how this works– the root system “dies” and the Dodder strands begin to wrap themselves around the host tissue, primarily stems, I think.
Here’s where it gets really interesting because there are, depending on which experts you believe, 100-170 species of Cuscuta. Are they all parasitic in the same way? I could not find the answer to that, and other questions. There were a lot of generalities. They “suck” water and nutrients from the host. Well, fine. That sucks as an explanation. One paper’s abstract suggested that at the point of contact, the host cell wall and the Dodder cell wall merge, a chimera. That’s interesting. How would that work?
[Sorry. No citations or references. Half of what I read was copy-pasted from the other half. I found ‘dodder mississippi’ yielded more ‘scientific papers’ (abstracts) than any other search string because there’s a United States Department of Agriculture research station specializing in Weed Science somewhere in Mississippi. $ ]
It’s a CLASS ONE noxious weed, according to the feds.
The critical question is, of course, how did Strangle Weed get to the Farm? I won’t bore you with the details of how I came to suspect this, but I suspect it came in on a load of composted
shi manure from cows that had grazed pastures with Dodder.
* A “just-so story.”