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Taking Over Most plants have leaves, roots, and a stem. Yet dodder has only a stem. You’ll find this plant in many parts of the world, and it’s hard to miss. It looks like orange spaghetti. It drapes itself in large clumps over other plants. Dodder is a parasite. It can’t live on its own.

It has no leaves and cannot make food for itself. It has roots only in the beginning of its life, so it cannot get water and nutrients from the soil. It must rely on a host plant to survive. Dodder grows from a seed and sprouts from

the ground like any other plant. Its stem creeps upward, looking for a host plant to latch onto. A dodder seedling can survive for only about 10 days. If it doesn’t latch onto a host plant by then, it will die. Once the seedling finds a host plant, the

dodder’s stem quickly wraps itself around the other plant. Within days, the dodder loses its roots and its connection with the ground. Now, its survival depends solely on the other plant. As the dodder grows, tiny bumps on its stem

push their way into the host plant’s stem. T e dodder pulls the nutrients it needs from the host plant. Dodder rarely kills the host plant, but the

Wordwise leaf: the main plant part needed for photosynthesis

root: the part of a plant that attaches it to the ground and draws water and nutrients from

the soil

seed: a part of a plant from which a new plant can grow

stem: the main body or stalk of a plant

host plant’s growth is slowed because the dodder takes away valuable nutrients. Oſt en dodder attaches itself to more than one host plant as it grows. If given enough time, dodder can fill entire fields.

Plants and Their Parts All plants need food, water, air, light, and room to grow. Most plants use their leaves, stems, and roots to survive. Some unusual plants use these parts in unusual ways, though. Some leaves help carnivorous plants like the

pimpernel sundew capture prey. Some roots, like those on the purple loosestrife, grow into thick mats. T ose roots help feed the plant and keep it upright. T e stem of the parasitic dodder helps it find a host. Each of these plants, and many others, have unique ways to get what they need to thrive.

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