Alien-looking dodder a most striking plant

UNUSUAL: The bright orange-coloured golden dodder attaches to other plants, and can grow in a circular shape from one to two metres across.
UNUSUAL: The bright orange-coloured golden dodder attaches to other plants, and can grow in a circular shape from one to two metres across.

The unusual orange colour of the golden dodder is an eye-catching feature of this twining plant.

At times appearing bright fluorescent orange, the low-growing plant consists of fine, tangled orange or yellow stems creeping over and attached to other plants.

Another unusual feature is its growth habit, with many plants growing in a circular shape, from one to two metres across. Sometimes the circles are “full”, while at other times they are open rings.

These orange circles among short green vegetation are certainly unusual and impressive, to the extent that they appear somewhat alien. We found golden dodder on the dry bed of Lake Goldsmith a couple of months ago. This brackish lake is a suitable spot for it, especially as it parasitises species of Wilsonia, also prevalent there.

There are several species of dodders, all of them rootless parasites, with the ability to penetrate the tissue of their host plants to obtain their nourishment. Their stems are fine and thread-like, and they appear to be leafless because of their few and tiny leaves.

They lack chlorophyll, resulting in their stems being brown, reddish, orange or yellow, rather than green. Several exotic dodders are serious pests in Australia, but golden dodder is a native.

The flowers are small and are followed by rounded small berry-like fruits.

A group of similar native plants goes by the name of dodder laurels. These grow in forested country, rather than grasslands and open places.

We have made a few bird-watching visits to Lake Goldsmith over the last few months, and the golden dodder was prominent through spring and early summer.

The unusual orange patches on the greenish lakebed were clearly visible from some of the lakeside roads.

BIRD REPORTS

An Australasian bittern has been photographed at Lake Wendouree.

This is a rare bird here, and it is good to know that the central islands are providing habitat not only for it, but numerous other waterbirds.

A cicadabird has returned to the Wombat Forest at Spargo Creek. This is the third or fourth summer this unexpected species has visited this spot.

A little bittern was heard a few times at Lake Wendouree in November and December, but no sightings have yet been made. A few spotted crakes are present at Lake Wendouree, mostly around the Convent Corner lagoon, near the Olympic precinct.

At Mullawallah Wetlands, an unexpected sighting was a yellow-tufted honeyeater. This species is mostly found north of the Divide, or in the Brisbane Ranges. Visits to Ballarat are uncommon.