Gorse bushes-an intriguing red web

Bright pink dodder on gorse bushes on Incleborough Hill

One of the most common plants on the property is gorse. Everyone will be familiar with the thorny evergreen shrub with its bright yellow flowers. But have you ever noticed a pink web covering a gorse bush?

Gorse begins to flower in late autumn and then flowers through winter. But it flowers most strongly in spring. It has a strong scent and smells just like coconut.
But you may see something rather odd, particularly on Incleborough Hill—gorse bushes sometimes completely covered with a strange, tangled, mass of red threads. This is dodder.
Dodder (Cuscuta epithymum) is a parasitic, climbing, annual plant which is found on many small shrubs including heather and gorse. In spring it starts to grow and twines round any nearby plant. Once it has found a plant to scramble over, the lower stem withers and from then on the dodder is entirely dependent on its host for food. It has no chlorophyll so can’t manufacture its own food by photosynthesis. The dodder suckers penetrate the stem of the host and food is “sucked” out of the host.
Dodder grows very quickly and it does not take long for a large gorse bush to be totally covered.