Cuscuta compacta

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Cuscuta compacta
Cuscuta compacta AFP.jpg
Photo by the Atlas of Florida Plants Database
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicots
Order: Solanales
Family: Cuscutaceae
Genus: Cuscuta
Species: C. compacta
Binomial name
Cuscuta compacta
Natural range of Cuscuta compacta from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common Name: Compact Dodder[1][2]

Taxonomic Notes

Synonyms: none.[3]

Varieties: none.[3]


C. compacta is a parasitic dioecious perennial that grows as a forb/herb or a vine.[2] Stems are more than 2 mm in diameter, yellow-green, and form rope-like masses. Although this species is typically a light green color, there is considerable variation within the species. Its inflorescence is a glomerule of 3-5 tubular flowers 5 mm long and 2 mm wide. Seeds are 2-2.6 mm long, brown when fresh, scurfy, globose, ovate to angled or flattened, and oblong.[4][5]


C. compacta occurs from Nebraska, south to Texas, eastward to central peninsular Florida, and northward to Illinois, New York, and New Hampshire.[1][2] It has also been introduced in Quebec Canada.[2]


Species in the Cuscuta genus are parasitic, growing on hosts for nutrition.[1] This species in particular can be found on a large range of herbaceous and woody hosts within its native region.[5]


C. compacta is found on herbaceous and woody hosts in bottomland forests, stream banks, marshes, swamps, pine savannahs, wet fields, and other wet habitats.[1][4] This species has been reported parasitizing a wide range of species[4], including Vaccinium ashei and Vaccinium corymbosum in North Carolina[6] and Citrus sinensis in Florida.[7] In Virginia, C. compacta is the only dodder to grow on Alnus serrulata, and has not been recorded parasitizing any monocots. Other frequent hosts in Virginia include species of Acer, Liquidambar, Rubus, Rhus, and Aralia.[4] In Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, it has been observed on Ilex glabra and Myrica cerifera along an ecotone between woodlands and a cypress swamp, a shaded sandy loam, on Lyonia and Illicium on an upper slope, along a dam embankment, on Cliftonia monophylla in a disturbed area, on Sambucus in a border of a swampy area, on sandrock banks, and a moist roadside depression.[8]


In the southern and mid-Atlantic United States, C. compacta has been observed to flower from late July through November.[1][9] Flowering in Virginia occurs from August 15th to September 28th.[4]

Seed bank and germination

In Virginia, C. compacta has a very high percentage of seed set. Germination occurs best at temperatures of 22-23 °C.[4] It is known to germinate throughout the growing season.[10]


While other species of Cuscuta are well adapted for insect pollination, C. compacta is well developed for autogamy.[4]

===Herbivory and toxicology===It has been rumored that rattlesnakes would take this plant into their dens for food[11], however this has not been verified.

Diseases and parasites

C. compacta is reported to transmit the psorosis virus to 5% of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) tested.[7]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

C. compacta is listed as presumed extirpated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Species in the Cuscuta genus are considered to be a noxious weed in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Vermont; it is even prohibited or quarantined in some of these states. Of these, most exclude native or widely distributed species.[2]

Cultural use

Pawnee Indians would use C. compacta to dye materials, such as feathers, orange. Maidens of the Pawnee would also use the parasite for divination to determine if their suitors sincerely loved them.

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Weakley AS (2015) Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Herbarium.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 USDA NRCS (2016) The PLANTS Database (, 24 January 2018). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Weakley, A.S. 2015. Flora of the southern and mid-atlantic states. Working Draft of 21 May 2015. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Musselman LJ (1986) The genus Cuscuta in Virginia. Castanea 51(3):188-196.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Austin DF (1980) Studies of the Florida Convolvulaceae - III. Cuscuta. Florida Scientist 43(4):294-302.
  6. Monaco TJ, Mainland CM (1981) Cuscuta compacta on blueberries in North Carolina. Haustorium, Parasitic Plants Newsletter 7:1.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Price WC (1965) Transmission of psorosis virus by dodder. International organization of citrus virologists conference proceedings (1957-2010) 3(3):162-166.
  8. Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: Last accessed: April 2019. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, Wilson Baker, Bill Boothe, Marcia Boothe, V. Craig, Robert K. Godfrey, J. M. Kane, Lisa Keppner, R. Kral, R. A. Norris, and H. Roth. States and Counties: Florida: Gadsden, Holmes, Liberty, Wakulla, and Washington. Georgia: Grady and Thomas. Alabama: Cherokee.
  9. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. Accessed: 24 JAN 2018
  10. Monaco, T. J. and C. M. Mainland (1981). "Cuscuta compacta on blueberries in North Carolina." Haustorium, Parasitic Plants Newsletter 7: 1.
  11. Gilmore MR (1919) Uses of plants by the indians of the Missouri river region. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Annual Report 33.