They said it can be destroyed only by burning - shocking! But I was really shocked when I found the yellow threads, wrapped up on my green onion plants, in the garden. Now, what do I do?
Cuscuta campestris, known as Cuscuta, is a parasitic plant in the Convolvulaceae family, genus Cuscuta, native to central North America. Morning glories and sweet potatoes are also members of this family. It has a few common names, such as the devil's hair, the field dodder, the yellow dodder or the golden dodder. Cuscuta is a pest of the lucerne, but also of other crops. It has the aspect of a net, made of yellow threads, which covers the infested plants. Such parasitic plants have almost no chlorophyll, that's why they can't make their own food. The plant has extensions called haustoria, which penetrates the host's tissue and draws nutrients from it, like a vegetable vampire.
Cuscuta campestris sprout from seeds, which were accidentally brought into the crop field. The seedlings recognize the best plants which they can use as hosts. Those are chemo-attractants plants. Cuscuta is attracted by a special light, which the surface of the plant reflects. I never would have thought that these "wires" are so smart! Once they found the perfect plant, the seedlings connect to the plants and suck their nutrients which may restrain the plants' growth and inhibit flowering. It has been proved that Cuscuta even steals genetic material from the host plant. A better control of the Cuscuta infestation can be done by using a red light technique, which can stop the cuscuta seedlings to recognize the good host plants, thus causing their early death before starting an infestation.
I saw the yellow, thin thread while checking on the onions and weeding a bit, here and there. As it rained a lot, I wasn't able to go in there for several days. While watching the rain through the window, I started to search for answers about how the Cuscuta came into my garden and I found the possible answer. It could be from the horse manure I brought into the vegetable garden last fall.
After the rains, the weeds almost covered the onion patch, so I went in there to weed. I am a thorough person, therefore I started a thorough weeding, from the onion patch's edge, going on every row, then turning back on the next row. When I arrived somewhere in the middle of the patch, I saw the Cuscuta thread, which was strangling a few of the onion leaves. I dug out the normal weeds - mostly grass - to clear out the onion rows, so I can see better where the cuscuta thread starts from. No way I would have started a fire in there!
While checking on the cuscuta, I saw that it had already bloomed, which worried me and made me work more careful, while removing it from the plants. It wasn't a big invasion, yet it was enough to worry me. Would it be there next year too? Should I better burn it all, like the specialist said? I tried to calm myself down, because the Cuscuta was wrapped around only a few plants, so maybe it won't be a danger for the next year's crop. Yet, I couldn't help myself of being a little bit afraid of those scary threads, especially of their suckers. I imagined how they could have jumped on me and strangled me...it really looked scary!
I cleaned up all the 'wires' very slowly, watching carefully the blooms and the seeds so they won't spread around. I put all the threads in a bag and burned it, just in case. It seems that I've done a good job, because there was no sign of the dodder this summer. I was more worried because that was the patch were now I'm growing tomatoes. I'm always rotating the crops, to prevent any kind of infestation.
It seems that I've tricked the devil's hair this time! Even if I have a small vegetable garden and I am growing them just for fun, I want my plants to be healthy and weeds free. And I really wouldn't want to have to clean another devil's hair from my plants!