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Killer plant attacks Kampala City
In Uganda, a seemingly decorative but deadly parasitic plant called Cuscuta dodder, has intensively parasitized a number of ornamental plants in the City of Kampala like Ficus benjamina, Acalypha and Golden Duranta, observes Olivia Makumbi, Agriculture Lecturer, Ndejje University She says Cuscuta siphons vital nutrients and moisture from the ornamental plants,
greatly weakening them and rendering them liable to drying especially if there is a draught. The ornamental plants have been planted along the streets of Kampala specifically for their beauty and their major service of purifying the air by removing
excess carbon dioxide produced by the numerous vehicles and huge human population in the city, and donating oxygen for us to breathe in. According to her scientific study, control of Cuscuta on such ornamental perennial plants is almost impossible, unless if the plants are cut down, thus robbing the City of the green legacy. “There is a danger that people look at Cuscuta as a beautiful decoration on the plants because of the way it meanders and hangs over the plants. Yet others might be tempted to take some of this seemingly beautiful and decorative plant, thus disseminating it to other parts of Uganda where it has not yet infested,” the university lecturer said.
About Cuscuta dodder
Cuscuta dodder is one of a group of twining leafless parasitic herbs of family Convolvulaceae, having whitish or yellowish filamentous stems. It is also known as Devil’s gut, Beggarweed, Strangletare, Scaldweed or Devil’s hair. The Genus has between 100 and 170 species and it belongs to the Morning glory and Sweet potato family. The plant has no chlorophyll, so it can’t make its own food. It grows on other plants using their nutrients for its growth and weakening the host plant. It is parasitic on a wide variety of plants, including a number of agricultural and horticultural crop species e.g. potatoes, clover, alfalfa, chrysanthemum, dahlia and petunia. All parasitic plants have modified roots called haustoria which penetrate the host plants, connecting them
to the conductive system (xylem, phloem or both). Dodder flowers and sets seed. The seed germinates at or near the surface of the soil, forming an anchoring root and then sends up a slender stem that grows in a spiral fashion until it reaches a host plant. It grows towards the smell of nearby plants. If a plant is not reached within 5 to 10 days, dodder seedling will die. Before it reaches the host plant, it relies on food reserves in the embryo. After dodder attaches itself to a plant, it wraps itself around it. If the host plant contains food useful to dodder, the dodder produces haustoria that insert themselves into the host plant. The original root of the dodder will then die off. The means of dispersal for Dodder is by the many seeds produced. The seeds will then
germinate when they fall on appropriate ground. Seeds can remain viable in soil for a period of 20 years or more. Dodders are obligate parasites, completely dependent on their host plant for nutrition. They usually don’t kill their host, but weaken it. Grasses
(monocots) are immune to dodder. The plant is very difficult to control once established and it moves rapidly from plant to plant. Herbicides will kill the dodder as well as the host plant. Manual removal can be successful on a small scale, though overlooked
pieces can regenerate the parasite.
Benefits from Cuscuta dodder
However, Cuscuta has its benefits and the following are some of its uses: It is used to treat liver, spleen and gall bladder disorders like jaundice. It supports liver function. It is a mild laxative, mild diuretic and is used to treat sciatica and scurvy. The Chinese use it to treat a range of conditions like impotence, premature ejaculation, sperm leakage, frequent urination, prostate cancer, ringing in ears, lower back pain, sore knees, white discharge from vagina, dry eyes, blurred vision and tired eyes http://www.encyclopedia.com/plants-and - animals/botany/botany-general/cuscuta.
References http://www.encyclopedia.com/plants-and - animals/botany/botany-general/cuscuta.