Upon finding a host, it sinks its fangs (known as haustoria) into the vascular system of its victim and drinks its water and nutrients. Dodder then grows and reattaches until it covers all nearby host plants in a tangled mat of orange stems. Dodder is an annual, and each plant produces thousands of seeds. The seeds remain viable in the soil for more than 20 years.
Young seedlings or plants attacked by dodder usually die. Mature plants are severely weakened, making them vulnerable to disease. Multiple species of field dodder (Cuscuta spp.) are wide-spread throughout the United States. Of particular concern are the infestations of Japanese dodder (C. japonica) found in Texas, California, South Carolina, and Florida. Dodder attacks both vegetable and ornamental plants, although not all plants are susceptible:
All grasses (including grains such as corn)
Cool-season vegetables (e.g., lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower)
Many monocots (e.g., lilies, irises, palms, bamboos, orchids)
Nightshade family plants (potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes)