Thursday, 15 January 2009

Hanging on for life

You wouldn't think that the Dodder-laurel was related to the Camphor Laurel but they are both in the laurel family, the Laurelaceae. Cinnamon comes from another plant in the family, Cinnamomum zeylanicum.

Dodder-laurel species are found growing in most areas, even out on the grasslands in Western Victoria where it is a dainty little little thing, but the one I found growing on the banks of the Barwon River at Geelong was anything but dainty. It was robust, and climbing over everything in its path, up to a height of about four metres in this case but it can climb a lot higher than that. Cassytha melantha the Coarse Dodder-laurel has quite thick stems but no leaves to speak of. You can see some of the leaves in the photo below. The flowers are insignificant but the fruit is quite large, about cherry size.

This dodder was attached to a young Black Wattle by small sucker-like pads called haustoria, and apparently gains access through these to the vascular system of the host plant. I had thought that they tapped into the root systems until I read Name That Flower by Ian Clarke and Helen Lee.

The patterns formed by the pads twining around the stem were very pretty in a geometrical kind of way, and I think I'll go back and try and get some better photos. The ones published here were taken 'on the run' because I was with a group of fellow naturalists and meant to be bird-watching :)

1 comment:

Duncan said...

Good pictures Boobook, I'll take a closer look at the next Dodder I see.