Cuscuta Dodder

Cuscuta Dodder

News: Recently in India, an invasive weed, Cuscuta dodder, has been gradually strangling the Chengalpet forests and Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, posing a severe threat to local vegetation, ecology, and the habitat of migratory birds.

Background:
• This invasive weed is native to North America and has already infested acres of trees in the reserve forests and has begun to spread inside India’s oldest bird sanctuary.
• The forest department has been manually removing it during the summer months when water level in the lake recedes and migratory birds fly away. However, the invasiveness is serious outside the sanctuary area.

About:
• Cuscuta, commonly known as dodder or amarbel, is a genus of over 201 species of parasitic plants. These plants are typically yellow, orange, or red, and they lack roots.
• As a holoparasitic plant, it forms a canopy on the host plant and extends thousands of tendrils, eventually forming a dense spectacle before strangling and killing the host.
• The seeds of Cuscuta are spheroid with a hard coat, enabling them to survive up to 50 years in dry storage and at least 10 years in the field.

Threats:
• The threats posed by Cuscuta dodder are significant. It can decrease the ability of plants to resist viral diseases and can also spread plant diseases from one host to another if it is attached to more than one plant. This is of economic concern in agricultural systems, where an annual drop of 10 percent in yield can be devastating.
• High levels of dodder in fodder are toxic to cattle and horses.
• In India, Cuscuta poses a serious problem in oilseeds, pulses, and fodder crops in various states.

About Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary:
• It is a 30-hectare protected area situated in Chengalpattu District, Tamil Nadu.
• It is the oldest water bird sanctuary in the country.
• The area is a habitat for migratory birds like pintail, garganey, grey wagtail, blue-winged teal, common sandpiper, and others.
• It is a Ramsar Site. 

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