Cuscuta epithymum

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaCuscutaceaeCuscutaCuscuta epithymum


An annual, rarely perennial, rootless twining herb, parasitic on the stems of a wide variety of small shrubs and herbs (most frequently Calluna vulgaris, Thymus polytrichus, Ulex gallii and U. minor) on heathland, chalk downland and fixed dune grasslands. It is also casual on field crops and in arable field-borders at the northern and western extent of its range. Lowland.



World Distribution

Eurosiberian Southern-temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range.

© P. Shannon

Broad Habitats

Dwarf shrub heath (cover of dwarf shrubs at least 25%)

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 6

Reaction (Ellenberg): 2

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.3

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.9

Annual Precipitation (mm): 846

Life form information

Height (cm): 1

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Therophyte (annual land plant)



Clonality - primary

Far-creeping by stolons in illuminated medium

Comment on Clonality

anomalous; an annual forming extensive clones but not rooting

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 494

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 27

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 12

Atlas Change Index: -1.28

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas (218d)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Meusel H, Jäger E, Rauschert S, Weinert E
1978.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols.