The Revenge of the Dodder

Basil and Dodder 23.09 (12)

Thanks to a colleague on WordPress, the truth is now known which invader  is attacking my basil plant.

To begin at the beginning, it was a harmless basil herb that I bought in the local supermarket. They arrive every year in small pots, but this year they were selling a king sized pot. My tomato mozarella salads were saved for the summer season. Basil is a sensistive herb and you never see it in Switzerland in the winter months. It prefers the warmer days and does not survive the ice and snow.

I put my basil outside but left it in the pot. It is no good transferring it to the garden where it serves as breakfast, dinner and tea to the slugs and other insects that attack with their knives and forks, figuratively speaking of course. And so my basil began to grow and we had a harvest. One day I noticed fine strands of hairlike formation growing from the top of the plant. I thought it was spreading out roots and making a new plant. However after removing this strange growth I realised it renewed itself in other places.

Basil and Dodder 23.09 (7)

And so it grew and stretched its little arms out searching for an anchor. I received some suggestions from online colleagues. It is bindweed some said, which I could agree on. We have bindweed in the garden, but the vines are thicker and they have white flowers. My mum called it convulvulus and removed it immediately if it grew in our garden, as it would quickly conquer everything. Another colleague decided it must be a parasite so kill it. She was not wrong. In the meanwhile our own gardener arrived to trim our hedges. Mr. Swiss has back problems and can no longer do the work, and my problems with MS no longer permit strenuous gardening work. I asked the gardner and he said he had never seen anything like it, which was not exactly helpful. In the meanwhile the plant performed a few more curves. It seems it is probably the only existing example in Switzerland. I am still thinking about telling the local newspaper “Dodder Invades Switzerland” would be the headlines on the front page.

Yes it was growing with an aim. Yesterday the mystery was solved. An expert saw my blog and said it was most probably dodder in his words “It is a nasty parasitic plant, and is quite contagious to other herbaceous plants” confirming my suspicions. Wikipedia calls it Cuscata and tells me it is mainly found in tropical and subtropical regions, and often in California (death valley comes to my mind). There is a European variety, but I have a feeling this one somehow smuggled itself onboard in the  earth delivered to the supermarket chain from somewhere else (a secret weapon perhaps, although Switzerland is a neutral country and quite harmless). I do not know where my supermarket gets these plants, perhaps from a guy wearing a long cloak with a hood and carrying a scythe – who knows. I suspect some sort of strange magic. They are now probably growing and developing all over Switzerland. “Houston we have a problem”.

Basil and Dodder 23.09 (4)

In the meanwhile it grows regardless. It seems that seeds could be slumbering in the earth waiting to develop and pounce on an unsuspecting plant. My main worry is now that they could take a flight and arrive in my garden, attacking everything and spreading its feelers out, stifling everything in its way. I can no longer sleep at night worrying if the tap on the window is the rain or the dodder trying to find an entrance.

Today I made a decision. I shot a few more photos, as a memory and it will be transported into our communal green garbage container. I have my own container, but this maruding villain will not be granted entrance. It could infect everything. I am now even suspicious when my cat has a scratch.

I would like to thank once again all assistance and advice, expecially the person that gave me the correct solution. I am saved from a close encounter of the third kind.

Basil and Dodder 23.09 (1)

13 thoughts on “The Revenge of the Dodder

  1. These invader plants can make a terrible mess out of not only YOUR plants, but they spread like crazy. These little strangling vines are the worst. We have at least three of them in our gardens. Four, actually, if I think about it. While all of them are American, none of them came from this far north. The warmer summers have invited them in. The vines have completely choked all the small brush and blackberries in our woods … in just a few years. They have moved into the front garden and short of digging up the entire garden and giving up, I don’t know what to do. It sends out shoots underground and you don’t know it’s there until it pops up and kills everything. So yes, get rid of it and hopefully, it won’t come back!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Luckily it is restricted in a pot and probably arrived via the gardining store earth. It will go. I have never seen one before, not very common in Switzerland, if at all. Just isolated cases like mine. Not even our gardner recognised it. I don’t care about my basil as that would never survive the winter in any case. As far as I can see my plant is growing in the air and not from the ground, although that is where it probably began.


  2. Stephen King had an online book called “the Plant”. Your post reminded me of that. This plant takes over an office. I wont spoil it for you if you wish to read it. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I thought of the Swiss word Schmarotzer (like the cockoos….) and I confess that I had (have?) a very strange plant in my garden here in France too….. It was my BLIND mother who took a photo to the Botanical Garden and they passed the pic around until several ppl said it was a Japanese plant, completely harmless, except that everybody who comes near or works the plant (like pulling it out or such) looses their voice. Not good for singers…. We now ‘attack’ it with a mouth & nose protection which looks ridiculous but helps. It makes roots under the ground and pops up in the lawn.
    Please throw your thingie out in a plastic bin, tightly bound and then put in your ordinary bin. That way it gets burned and cannot spread its evil feelers elsewhere. Sometimes it truly is better not to know where our stuff comes from.
    Have a good weekend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Schmarotzer is a good Word for dodder. I decided to put the plant in our next plastic bag for the garbage collection. It will then be burnt. I have never heard of a plant that causes voice loss. You too have a good weekend.


    • Dodder has no leaves, just a twining vine that climbs over the plant and spreads to other plants. This one seems to be common in California. I had never heard of it. Luckily it is only one plant in a pot that I have, obviously from the plant nursery in the soil. There are many unwanted plant invaders. One that England has is Japanese knotweed, which takes over complete gardens.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Omgosh, DancingPalmTrees: This looks terrifying…. We DO have some very quickly growing and quite invading weeds here too (right outside of Paris, it’s the jungle, people, beware!!!! 🙂 ), they swing themselves at anything they an cling to, have tiny hairs on their leaves and stems so that you ‘hurt’ yourself pulling them off they go over lawns trees bushes shrubs but they are by no means so terrible as the Kudzus… Goodness me what are we coming to? Is it the vengence of nature? It must be. Thanks for this enlightment (which I didn’t really want to know about….!) 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Honestly, when I first saw your basil plant with the dodder, that’s what I thought it was. But then you said you got it from the store and I thought it must not be dodder since it’s a wild plant. I have a basil plant and never had it look like that so I thought maybe it was a special Swiss variety. Ha!
    We have dodder here in Oklahoma. It’s quite common and grows to big clumps. It looks like a pile of spaghetti. I think it can be killed with a weed/grass killer. Something systemic that goes down to the roots. But that wouldn’t have helped your poor Basil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You rarely see dodder in Switzerland. There is a European variety but is different to my dodder. My basil is now in the rubbish and will eventually be destroyed by fire and flames. It was obviously in the earth and due to my tender care started to go forth and strangle my basil. It was an interesting experience and I took many photos.

      Liked by 1 person

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