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Common Dodder

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A parasitic plant that thrives on heather and gorse on the Dorset heaths.


Common Dodder: the devils guts

Post date: Thursday, 15 October, 2015 - 00:00

The Dorset heaths are a really different sort of habitat to almost anywhere else in the county with some unique species to be found. One of those is common dodder (Cuscuta epithymum) although actually is not totally a heathland species but it seems it is most likely to be found there because it is a parasitic plant that grows on gorse and heather species. It was once found in corn fields and pasture, clovers are another host, but it has been almost totally eradicated from food growing areas now by spraying.

Common dodder is a member of the bindweed family and produces the same 'streamer' stems which entwine anti-clockwise and along which the tiny pink, five petalled flowers form in July and August. Being parasitic it has no roots and does not have chlorophyll as it draws the nutrients it needs from its host hence the stems are red/brown and so merge in with the heathers where it is most commonly found. That, and the tiny flowers, mean that common dodder can be very easily overlooked.

It has a number of country names and many of these reflect the 'supernatural' absence of roots and the strangulation of its host. Wizards net, witch's hair, devil's guts, devil's hair and strangleweed are just some!


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Common Dodder
Scientific Name Cuscuta epithymum
Family Bindweed family - Convolvulaceae
Status Local
Interest Level
Species Family Insectivorous and Parasitic Plants
Flower Colour Group Pink
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
Preferred Environment
Look for Small clusters of pink flowers entwined on heather (occasionally gorse)
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
H1: Dry Heath Associated