The Q&A Archives: Field Dodder

Question: Last spring I noticed thin, dark yellow string-like vines growing out of the sides of some snapdragon seedlings. The local extension office diagnosed field dotter. I tried to keep it from being transplanted to the garden, but it really took hold and someof the plants were smoothered in this stuff. Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening again this year?

Answer: Dodder is a peculiar plant in that it begins life as a seed and develops roots for sustanence, but when it locates a suitable host plant its roots disolve and dodder takes its nourishment from the host plant. As a parasitic plant, dodder can literally suck the life out of plants. Sadly, dodder seed can remain viable for several years so you may have problems with it in the future. What you can do is hand pull the plants as they emerge - certainly before they set seeds. Try to plant something other than tender annuals or perennials in the beds where dodder has appeared. Plant woody ornamentals instead. If you must use the infested area for flowers or veggies, try placing a thick mulch over the bed after you've planted, to exclude light from reaching the soil and triggering the germination of the dodder seed.<br><br>Good luck!

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