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Plants for Bugs

RHS research project monitoring insects in native and non-native garden border plants.

Feeling all doddery

Posted by Helen Bostock Plantsforbugs on 24 Sep 2012 at 02:48 PM

If I didn't know better, I'd have said some prankster had been down on our new wildflower area and thrown handfuls of cooked spaghetti over some plants (see pic above). But no, this was nature at its wierdest. What we had was a couple of patches of dodder - yellow dodder to be precise (Cuscuta campestris), a parasitic annual from North America and associated especially with carrots - that had wound itself all over wild carrot and the surrounding host plants! Here's a close up of the flowers...

Wisley already boasts not one but two types of dodder; Cuscuta europaea (greater dodder) found growing on wild hops and nettles along the River Wey bank and C. epiphymum (dodder) growing in one of the heather beds. However, yellow dodder must have come in with the wildflower seed mix.

And it was not alone in being an unexpected but welcome flower among our germinated seeds. Others included goats beard (Tragopogon pratensis), clary (Salvia verbenaca subsp. horminoides), and the two pictured below; chicory (Cichorium intybus) top and greater knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa) bottom.

For more on our wildflowers you won't find a better book than Wild Flowers of Wisley: a centenary flora written by our RHS botanists.

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