DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Dodder laurel, Cassytha melantha, family Lauraceae, parasitising a small Eucalyptus tree at Warrandyte, Victoria, Australia. The picture shows a tangled mass of thin twining stems of the plant. The stems may eventually lose their green colour (chlorophyll), as C. melantha is an obligate parasite, relying on the host for photosynthesis as well as a supply of water and mineral nutrients. Its fruits are eaten by birds and macropods, and after excretion may lay dormant in the ground for years until germination. The rooted seedling must find a host if it is to survive. This it does by the production of long shoots: which, if they contact a suitable host at random, attach themselves by means of haustoria to the host's stem. The plant then loses its roots and lives as a parasite. Its common name is misleading, because it is not a dodder ( which are species of the genus Cuscula).
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