The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Vampire plant

Dodder, a parasitic plantRemember that mini-book I'm working on?  After a bit of a rocky start, I've been whizzing through it, enjoying spending some time in the scientific literature as I polish my factoids.

One of the most interesting factoids I've uncovered has to do with dodder, the orange viney thing on the left.  This plant has no green pigment and thus doesn't make sugars through photosynthesis.  Instead, it twines around nearby plants, pokes modified roots into their stems, and sucks them dry.  Yum!

Dodder is pretty picky, prefering some plants over others for its dinner, and it seems to know how to grow toward the tastier specimens.  I spent a summer during college working in this very cool professor's lab, trying to figure out how dodder decides which plant to twine around.  I didn't make any progress, but I ran across an article recently mentioning that dodder reacts to airborne chemicals when determining the suitability of a host plant --- in essence, smelling its prey.

So, next year when the dodder once again wipes out my carrots, I will at least know that it's a pretty darn cool weed....  (Four and a half chapters down, two and a half to go!)

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I look forward to reading it as soon as it is done!
Comment by Sheila Tue Feb 17 21:01:02 2009
People keep saying that and surprising me --- after all, it is pretty much a local trail guide, but I guess my explanations of ecology would transcend the local. :-)
Comment by anna Wed Feb 18 08:04:39 2009

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