Dissertation Research: Ecological Interactions Between Parasitic Plants and Their Hosts

  • De Moraes, Consuelo M (PI)
  • Runyon, Justin B. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Parasitic plants are important components of both natural and agricultural ecosystems and have significant influence on the structure and dynamics of the communities they inhabit. Yet, little is known about the ecology of interactions between parasitic plants and their hosts. Flowering plants in the genus Cuscuta are obligate parasites with little photosynthetic capability and obtain nutrients by attaching to above-ground shoots of other plants. Cuscuta spp. are important agricultural pests, listed on the United States Department of Agriculture's Top Ten Weeds List, and can be difficult to control without also impacting host plants. This project will explore the chemical ecology of interactions between parasitic plants in the genus Cuscuta and their hosts. Specifically, it will examine the chemical cues involved in host location and recognition by Cuscuta, the defense responses initiated by host plants in response to Cuscuta attack, and the impact of these defensive responses on the host plant's ability to defend itself from subsequent attack by herbivores. Results obtained from this study will improve understanding of chemically mediated interactions among plants and plant defense against simultaneous attack by multiple organisms. This knowledge may be useful in developing new tactics for controlling parasitic plants that attack agricultural crops.

Effective start/end date10/1/069/30/08


  • National Science Foundation: $12,000.00


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