Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Golden Dodder (Cuscuta campestris) is a leafless, twining, parasitic plant that forms a dense mat of growth over its host plant.
  • Its thread-like twining stems are usually golden yellow or orange in colour and have small suckers which penetrate the host plant's stems or leaves and extract nutrients.
  • Golden Dodder grows in a wide range of environmental conditions and on a wide variety of host plants.
  • It is a serious pest of crops and sown pastures and also attacks weeds and native plants growing in pastures, along roadsides and in natural areas.
  • Golden Dodder is invasive in grasslands, open woodlands, coastal vine thickets and riparian areas, and is of particular concern as an environmental weed of inland wetlands in southern Australia.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Golden Dodder (Cuscuta campestris) is a leafless, twining, parasitic herb forming dense mats of growth over other plants. This species is usually short-lived; however it can live for more than one year if it is attached to a long-lived host plant. Its twining and branching stems are pale yellow, greenish-yellow, golden yellow or orange in colour. They are hairless, thin (about 1 mm thick), and thread-like in appearance. These parasitic stems have small suckers (called haustoria) which are used to penetrate the host plant's stems or leaves and extract nutrients (Navie 2004).

The small flowers (2–4 mm long) are cream to white in colour and slightly bell-shaped. These flowers have five sepals and five pointed petals which are partially fused together near the base. The petal lobes are bent outwards or downwards when fully open. They are borne in small dense clusters (up to 15 mm across), containing about five flowers.

The fruit are greenish-yellow coloured globular capsules (3–4 mm across) containing up to four seeds. Seeds are tan-coloured, greyish-brown or dark brown (1 to 1.5 mm across) and more or less rounded in shape, but with one or two slightly flattened sides. Their surfaces are dull in appearance and have a fine granular texture (Navie 2004).

For further information and assistance with identification of Golden Dodder contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Golden Dodder is a common and widespread weed that grows in a wide range of environmental conditions and on a wide variety of host plants. It is most commonly found growing on plants and other weeds in gardens, parks, along roadsides and along waterways. It is also a serious pest of crops and sown pastures (Navie 2004).

Are there similar species?

Golden Dodder is very similar to the other naturalised (i.e., Cuscuta planiflora, C. suaveolens and C. epithymum) and native (i.e., C. australis, C. chinensis, C. tasmanica and C. victoriana) Dodders. However, Golden Dodder's bright golden yellow or orange coloured stems easily distinguish it from C. planiflora, C. epithymum and C. victoriana, which usually have reddish or pinkish stems. It can also be distinguished from C. suaveolens and C. tasmanica by its dense flowers clusters, as both these species have loose flower clusters, with flowers borne on stalks 3–6 mm long (Navie 2004).

Australian Dodder (C. australis) is very difficult to distinguish from Golden Dodder, but its petals are usually blunt-tipped or rounded and are often held upright. Finally, unlike Golden Dodder, Chinese Dodder (C. chinensis) has capsules that are entirely hidden by its withered petals (Navie 2004).

Golden Dodder is also superficially similar to the native Dodder Laurels (Cassytha spp.), which are also parasitic twiners. However, the Dodder laurels have flowers with three petals and three sepals (instead of five) and 6–9 stamens (versus 5 in Dodder), their stems are often hairy and greenish in colour, and they have fleshy one-seeded fruits (Navie 2004).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Golden Dodder was included in the list of 71 species that were nominated by state and territory governments for assessment as Weeds of National Significance (WONS). Following an assessment process, Golden Dodder was not included as one of the 20 WONS. However, it remains a weed of potential national significance.

Agriculture: Golden Dodder is largely known as a pest of crops, particularly of plants belonging to the daisy (Asteraceae) and legume (Fabaceae) plant families. Numerous commercial crops have been attacked in Australia including a wide range of different field crops, pasture legumes, vegetables and horticultural plants (e.g., Lucerne, Lupins, Tomato, Zucchini, Carrot, Celery, Onion and Lettuce). Crop yields can be significantly reduced, through the loss of nutrients from parasitism and through shading caused by the dense mass of stems that develops on heavily infested hosts. Infested areas may also need to be quarantined for several years before crops can be grown again (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Golden Dodder can also be a nuisance pest in nurseries and home gardens.

Native ecosystems: This species also attacks a wide range of naturalised species and native plants growing in pastures, along roadsides and in natural areas (e.g. Noogoora Burr (Xanthium strumarium) [as Xanthium occidentale], Smartweeds, Persicaria spp. and Lignum (Muehlenbeckia florulenta)). It has been reported from grasslands, open woodlands, coastal vine thickets, riparian areas and wetlands. In fact, Golden Dodder is regarded as an environmental weed in some parts of Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. It is actively managed by community groups in Western Australia and was recently listed as a priority environmental weed in three Natural Resource Management regions. It is of particular concern as an environmental weed in inland wetland areas. For example, it frequently grows on plants along the margins of Willandra Creek and its lagoons in Willandra National Park in the Riverina region of southern New South Wales and is also seen as a threat to the natural integrity of the Lake Lalbert Wildlife Reserve in northern Victoria (Navie & Adkins 2007).

How does it spread?

Golden Dodder produces vast numbers of tiny seeds and sometimes also spread by stem fragments. The seeds and stem fragments are mostly spread to new areas in contaminated agricultural produce and are also washed downstream by floods and water movement. Seeds may also be dispersed in mud attached to vehicles and can pass through the digestive tract of animals intact (Navie 2004, Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

What is its history in Australia?

Golden Dodder has been introduced to many countries, usually as a contaminant of agricultural produce, and this is how it is thought to have come into Australia. Dodder was first recorded in Australia in 1867, when it was found to be damaging lucerne crops in the Bathurst and Goulburn areas in southern New South Wales, though it is not certain which species this population belonged to. Since the 1980s Golden Dodder has become much more widespread, particularly in South Australia and Victoria (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Golden Dodder is a difficult weed to eradicate, or even manage effectively, because its seed can survive for long periods in the soil and it can commence seed production after only a few weeks of growth.

Non-chemical control: Prevention of introduction and spread is vital and this is best done with good quarantine measures. Contaminated pasture seed is an important source of new infestations, so it is essential to only use certified pasture seeds. Contaminated hay and grain can also introduce Golden Dodder to properties or to clean areas, so any contaminated fodder should be destroyed. Livestock and contaminated machinery can also spread the seed to new areas. Machinery should be cleaned before moving to other paddocks and stock grazing on areas known to be infested with Golden Dodder should be kept in quarantine for at least two days before they are moved to Dodder-free pastures. Control of weeds that are the preferred hosts for Golden Dodder, such as Noogoora and Bathurst Burrs (Xanthium spp.) will also reduce its chance of spreading and prevent them from becoming sources of infestation (Trounce et al. 1998).

Physical control: Golden Dodder can be controlled by cutting the host plant as close as possible to ground level and burning it. Do not slash infested areas, as this will promote the spread of Dodder.

Land management: Crops or pastures that are severely infested (e.g., Lucerne and Clover) should be replaced or rotated with less susceptible or resistant crops or pastures where practical. Less susceptible species include cereal crops (e.g., Wheat, Barley, Oats, Triticale and Cereal Rye), summer grain crops (e.g., Maize and Sorghum) and perennial pasture grasses. Where crops or pastures are used in rotations to control Golden Dodder, lucerne or susceptible legumes should not be sown again for at least five years (Trounce et al. 1998).

Early detection is necessary if Golden Dodder is to be controlled before seeding commences. Therefore, all workers on at risk or infested farms should be made aware of Golden Dodder and be able to identify it. Vigilance is also required after control measures have been taken, as it is easy to overlook the small threads starting to invade again. Threads as small as 5 cm can re-attach to the host crop and continue the infestation (Trounce et al. 1998).

Chemical control: Although no selective herbicides are available for use, contact herbicides can be used to rapidly desiccate the standing crop and destroy the Dodder plants. Contact herbicides act by quickly killing green plant material and do not harm crop roots or seeds below the soil surface. Where Golden Dodder infestations occur in non-crop areas, it can be eradicated by control with non-selective herbicides (Trounce et al. 1998).

Check with your local council or state/territory government agency about its requirements for Golden Dodder control. Also see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au .

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Seeds can germinate in spring, summer and autumn, but most germination takes place in late spring. However, germination will not occur without stimulus provided by the close presence of a suitable host plant. This is because seedlings do not possess roots and will die unless they quickly become attached to a host plant. By parasitising the host plant, the seedlings are able to twine rapidly and quickly commence flowering (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Flowering occurs mostly in spring and early summer and is closely followed by seed production (Navie 2004). Seeds have a hard coat and can remain dormant in the soil for several years (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Golden Dodder is widely naturalised in eastern and south-eastern Australia and also has a scattered distribution in other parts of the country. It is widespread in New South Wales and Queensland, but in Queensland it is most common in the south-eastern parts of the state. It is also widespread in the northern and central regions of Victoria and the south-eastern parts of South Australia (particularly along the Murray River and its tributaries). There are also scattered populations of this species present in south-western, western and northern Western Australia and in the northern parts of the Northern Territory (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie & Adkins 2007).

Where does it originate?

The actual native range of Golden Dodder is obscure. It is thought to be native to North America (Canada, USA and Mexico) and parts of the Caribbean (i.e., the Bahamas, Cuba, Guadeloupe, Jamaica and Martinique). It is possibly also native to parts of South America (GRIN 2007).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Cuscuta campestris

Other scientific names (synonyms)?


Does it have other known common name(s)?

Common Dodder, Dodder, Field Dodder, Angel's Hair, Beggar Vine, Love Vine, Strangle Vine, Five-angled Dodder, Western field Dodder

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