IS THE PARASITIC PLANT CALLED STRANGLE WEED?
July 18, 2010
questions have been received this summer.
Q: I live
in Eutaw, Ala. Every summer I see a plant that I have not been able to
find an image for on the Internet. It "appears" to be a tangle
of brown, dark orange or yellow vines without leaves, much like silly
string. It covers the tops of other vines and bushes.
A: It is a parasitic vine called dodder. It is also known as strangle
weed, golden thread and angel hair. The genus name is Cuscuta.
Some plant taxonomists place the species in the morning glory family.
common and widespread in the eastern United States from Canada to Florida
and westward. Dodder has no leaves or roots. Its stem structures penetrate
the host plant and remove nutrients. A true parasite, the plant is considered
a botanical nightmare for some commercial crops such as cranberries, alfalfa
and ornamentals. As with many plants we categorize as pests, dodder thrives
in disturbed agricultural areas where erosion occurs and where natural
vegetation and soils no longer exist because of human activities.
Q: I have
a friend who believes in feeding anything that comes near the house, She
is now feeding an opossum that visited her trash can and is living under
her house. She is trying to feed it by hand. She even has given it some
vitamins she has for her horses. I don't know if feeding wild animals
is illegal in the state of Virginia, but I cannot think that overcoming
the fear of humans or becoming dependent on a human source of food would
be healthy for a wild animal of any species. Is it a good idea to feed
of people would say "yes" if we consider birds in the backyard
as wild animals. As for possums, they are not usually a problem for humans.
According to some scientists, they do not get rabies, although they will
bite if given a chance. Wildlife laws vary from state to state, but it
is not illegal most places to feed possums.
some species, however, is illegal and can sometimes create practical problems.
For example, feeding alligators is against the law, and individual alligators
can become aggressive if they get too familiar with humans. Many alligator
attacks on humans are at locations where people have been feeding the
gators. Raccoons can become a problem when they are fed around a home
because they may decide that garbage cans, outbuildings or even the house
itself should be checked out as a source of food. Plus, raccoons are highly
susceptible to rabies. Federal laws prohibit feeding marine mammals such
as dolphins and manatees in the wild.
on the other hand are often kept as pets and other than being dumb as
a post are fairly benign creatures. Sounds like the one you describe has
already developed a dependence on humans (trash cans), so I am not sure
that adding another step in the feeding process will make the situation
any worse. One feature of possums that will take care of the situation
sooner rather than later is that possums do not live very long for an
animal that size--average about two years--so unless its babies show up
for a handout, the problem will be solved within a year or so.
Q: A friend
says he saw a red wolf in upstate South Carolina. Is there such a thing
as a red wolf?
A: Your friend
probably saw a coyote, a species that has spread throughout much of the
Southeast and can be reddish in color, as well as gray, brown or black.
So-called red wolves are classified as most closely related to gray wolves
by some ecologists and wildlife biologists and to coyotes by others. Small
populations of red wolves have been introduced into coastal South Carolina
and on the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina,
but few have spread far from the points of release.
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