Sunday, June 26

In A World Of Orange...

If there is anything I’ve learned this week, it’s that plants are everywhere. There are plants on rocks. There on plants on trees, and there are even plants growing on top of other plants. One prevalent example of a plant with that parasitic ability is dodder, a native to California, known to the botanical community as Cuscuta californica. Surprisingly related to the morning glory family, dodder is capable of engulfing grasses and blooms of mountain trails with orange, spiderlike projections that span from plant to plant. Feeding off the nutrients of host plants through their straw shaped vines, dodder can forgo the process of photosynthesis and independently thrive in huge masses. This parasitic ability is achieved by projecting haustorium (invading tips of fungi) into the host’s vascular system, which frees dodder from dependence upon roots. After dodder is “wireless” (root-free), it has the ability to strategically direct its growth. It is hypothesized that plants surrounding dodder release chemical substances that help it sense which potential hosts can best sustain it. The dodder then expands its growth towards the most efficient host. Cuscuta californica is definitely an ingenious, little noticed plant that is expanding throughout southern California in all of its "orangey" glory.

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