KAMPALA - To the ordinary Kampala city resident or visitor, believe the beautiful and coloured yellow plants cited hanging over some of the street ornamental vegetation is KCCA's beautification innovation of the city.
Unknowingly, though, the seemingly innocent and decorative plant is a deadly parasitic plant called Cuscuta dodder which has intensively destroyed a number of ornamental vegetation planted in the City and its suburbs.
The beautiful yellow parasitic plants pose a big danger to strangle and eventually exterminate the KCCA vegetation along the streets. The ornamental vegetation that faces danger includes Ficus Benjamina, Acalypha, and Golden Duranta.
When contacted for a comment, Ndejje University Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture and Consultant, Olivia Makumbi said Cuscuta siphons vital nutrients and moisture from the ornamental plants, greatly weakening them and rendering them liable to drying especially if there is a drought.
Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) has severally planted ornamental plants along the Kampala streets specifically for their beauty and their major service of purifying the air.
The senior lecturer explained that the control of Cuscuta in the country and on such ornamental perennial plants is almost impossible, unless if the plants are cut down, thus the dangers of robbing the City of the green legacy.
"The danger is that people look at Cuscuta as a beautiful decoration on the plants because of the way it meanders and hangs over the plants. Yet others might be tempted to take some of this seemingly beautiful and decorative plant, thus spreading it to other parts of Uganda where it has not yet manifested," Olivia Makumbi warned.
It is parasitic on a wide variety of plants, including a number of agricultural and horticultural crop species like potatoes, clover, alfalfa, chrysanthemum, dahlia, and petunia.
About Cuscuta dodder
According to the scientific study, Cuscuta dodder is one of a group of twining leafless parasitic herbs having whitish or yellowish filamentous stems. It is also known as Devil's gut, Beggar weed, Strangle tare, Scald weed or Devil's hair.
The type has between 100 and 170 species and it belongs to the Morning glory and Sweet potato family. The plant has no chlorophyll, so it can't make its own food. It, therefore, grows on other plants using their nutrients for its growth thus weakening the host plant.
Dodders are obligate parasites, completely dependent on their host plant for nutrition. They usually don't kill their host, but weaken it. Grasses are however immune to dodder.
The dodder is very difficult to control once established and it moves rapidly from plant to plant. Herbicides will kill the dodder as well as the host plant. Manual removal can be successful on a small scale, though overlooked pieces can regenerate the parasite.
Advantages of Cuscuta dodder
Cuscuta dodder could be a dangerous plant however; Cuscuta has benefits which could be useful especially to human health.
It is can be used to treat somebody organs like the liver, spleen and gall bladder with disorders.
The Chinese use it to treat a range of conditions like impotence, premature ejaculation, sperm leakage, frequent urination, prostate cancer, ringing in ears, lower back pain, sore knees, white discharge from the vagina, dry eyes, blurred vision, and tired eyes.