Weeds in Australia


Cuscuta suaveolens


Fringed Dodder (Cuscuta suaveolens) is a short-lived, leafless, twining, parasitic herb that forms a dense mat of growth over other plants. Its twining and branching stems are generally yellowish-green, cream or whitish in colour. These stems are hairless, thin and thread-like in appearance. They have small suckers (called haustoria) which are used to penetrate the host plant's stems or leaves and extract nutrients (Navie 2004).

The small flowers (3 to 4 mm long) are cream to white in colour and somewhat bell-shaped. These flowers are borne in loose few-flowered clusters on stalks 3 to 6 mm long. They have five sepals and five pointed petals which are partially fused together. The petal lobes are usually held upright with inward-pointing tips. The flowers also have five stamens and two styles that are topped with tiny globular stigmas. The small greenish-yellow rounded capsules (2 to 3 mm across) contain up to four seeds. These seeds are more or less rounded in shape (1.5 to 2 mm across) and have a granular surface texture (Navie 2004).

For further information and assistance with identification of Fringed Dodder contact the herbarium in your state or territory.


Fringed Dodder is naturalised in some parts of south-eastern Australia (e.g. in New South Wales, southern Victoria, Tasmania and south-eastern South Australia) (APC 2007). In South Australia, approximately 100 hectares of native vegetation in the south-eastern parts of the state is infested with Fringed Dodder. This infestation is mainly located on heavy, moderately saline soils subject to flooding in winter.

Fringed Dodder was also reported from several localities in Victoria and inland New South Wales (e.g. in the Maitland, Adelong and Narrabri districts) prior to 1930, however its current distribution in these states is unknown as habitats have either become more saline or have been converted to pasture. However Fringed Dodder was recently recorded from lignum thickets and gidgee woodlands in Culgoa National Park in the central-north of New South Wales (Hunter 2005).

A single infestation was recently also found in a red clover seed crop in the Forth district in Tasmania, though this population is thought to have been eradicated (Cunningham et al. 2003).

Key points:
  • Fringed Dodder (Cuscuta suaveolens) is a leafless, twining, parasitic plant that forms a dense mat of growth over its host plant.
  • Its thread-like twining stems are usually yellowish-green, cream or whitish in colour and have small suckers which penetrate the host plant's stems or leaves and extract nutrients.
  • Fringed Dodder is a potentially serious pest of crops and sown pastures, particularly legumes such as lucerne and clover.
  • It also attacks native plants growing in pastures and natural areas, and has the potential to become an environmental weed.
How it spreads:

Fringed Dodder reproduces by seed and sometimes also by stem fragments. The seeds and stem fragments are mostly spread to new areas in contaminated agricultural produce and are also washed downstream by water movement. Seeds may also be dispersed in mud attached to vehicles, and can pass through animals intact (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004).

Where it grows:

Fringed Dodder is a potentially serious parasitic pest of numerous crops that can grow in a wide range of environmental conditions. It may also be found growing on plants and other weeds in grasslands, along roadsides and in saline habitats (Cunningham et al. 2003; Navie 2004).

Flower colour:White
Distribution map: http://www.dwlbc.sa.gov.au/assets/files/lbsap_chilean_Dodder.pdf .

Fringed Dodder is one of seventeen sleeper weeds identified by the Bureau of Rural Sciences (following consultation with the Australian Weeds Committee) which could have nationally significant impacts on agriculture if allowed to spread.

Fringed Dodder is a potentially significant parasite of crops and pastures. It mainly attacks lucerne, clovers and other legumes, but has also been recorded on carrot, onion and other species. Infested areas are often quarantined, causing considerable financial loss, and contaminated produce has a reduced value (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001; Cunningham et al. 2003).

Fringed Dodder also has the potential to be an environmental weed as it is known to infest native vegetation in south-eastern South Australia and New South Wales (Cunningham et al. 2003). For example, it was recently recorded from lignum thickets and gidgee woodlands in Culgoa National Park in the central-north of New South Wales (Hunter 2005).


Fringed Dodder is native to the southern parts of South America (i.e. southern Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay) (GRIN 2007).


Like all of the other introduced Dodders, it is thought that Fringed Dodder was accidentally introduced into Australia as a contaminant of agricultural produce (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).


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