Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

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Plants of Wisconsin

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  Prairie Folklore

by Wayne Pauly from Dane County Parks ACTION Adult Conservation Team Newsletter (All folklore stories)


Dodder, love vine, goldthread vine, devil's gut, strangle weed, angel's hair
Cuscuta gronovii 

Love vine is a name from pioneer days when a young girl used this plant to determine if a particular fellow was thinking about her.  Before going into this bit of lore, though, I must explain that dodder is an unusual flowering plant, because it's not green, it's orange or yellow, and since it has no green chlorophyll, it doesn't produce its own food.  It vines around other plants, injects modified roots into their stems, and sucks out their "life blood".  It's a parasite. 

The love-struck pioneer girl would break a three foot section of the slender orange vine, think of that certain fellow, and then throw the vine over her shoulder.  She'd mark where it landed with a bit of colored yarn and wait a few days before returning to interpret the results.  If the section of vine twined around another plant it meant the fellow was thinking about her, but if it withered and died, then she didn't have much hope. 

Dodder is a native plant, and I've grown it in my prairie garden as a parasite on mountain mint where they coexisted for a decade or so until the dodder disappeared.  I remember testing this bit of lore with a piece of vine laid on mountain mint.  After a few days, a slender thread grew from the disconnected vine and wrapped around the mint which I suppose meant that my wife was indeed thinking about me!

 

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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