Dodder vine, strangle weed, or hairweed
This is an interesting, parasitic plant called the dodder vine in the genus, Cuscuta. It is also commonly called strangle weed, hairweed, hellbine, or angel’s hair. The plant you have is one of 150 different species throughout the world with ten species identified in Florida.
Dodder vine is a leafless, parasitic weed relying on its host for survival. These species have a wide variety of host plants, including landscape and nursery grown ornamentals such as agricultural crops, weeds, and other plants. Once fully established, thick mats of dodder stems can completely cover a host plant. I found a section of dodder vine along the side of the road on US 17 where I took this photo.
The stems of dodder are very thin. As the plant matures, it may become a golden yellow or remain a yellowish-green color. Dodder produces very little to no chlorophyll (the green color pigment in leaves) and relies upon its host for water and nutrients. The portion of the stem connected to the soil degrades as the vine migrates up the Dodder has no true roots. In order to attach to a host plant, dodder plants form specialized structures called “haustoria” which invade the vascular tissues of host plants and allow the dodder plant to utilize nutrients and water from the host plant host plant, eventually being free of the soil and reattaching itself completely to the host plant.
Flowers are small, bell-shaped, and range from yellow to white. They emerge in clusters from summer to fall. Each flower produces one to four seeds. Dodder produces small, pea-shaped fruit. Seeds can vary in size depending on the species but are typically 1/16 of an inch and are light to medium-brown in color. Seeds can remain viable in the soil for more than 10 years, and, as a result, it is important to remove plants prior to seed production.
Cuscuta species (other than native species) are both Florida and federal noxious weeds, meaning it is unlawful to introduce, multiply, possess, move, or release any living state of the plant (including seeds). In the landscape, small infestations may be controlled by removing the host and the dodder at the same time. Once dodder has infested an ornamental, there are no selective herbicides offering control without harming the ornamental host.
For more complete information – check out the UF/IFAS publication titled: “Biology and Management of Dodder (Cuscuta spp.) in Ornamental Crop Production and Landscapes” by Kaley Mierek, Chris Marble, Nathan Boyd, and Shawn Steed. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep556