For better or worse, I get dozens of emails and calls every month from people who have questions about natural history. Many of these queries relate to mystery plants or animals. Fortunately, with good digital cameras now being ubiquitous, I often get a photo or two to help out in the quest for a name.
Cuspidate dodder is not the only official rarity in Ohio's dodder world. Of the eight natives, two species are endangered, two are listed as threatened, and two are considered extirpated. The latter category refers to plants that have not been seen for at least twenty years in Ohio, and to botanists rediscovering one of them is somewhat akin to finding a Holy Grail.
The upshot is that our Jackson County landowner had found compact dodder, Cuscuta compacta, which was one of the species listed as extirpated in Ohio. Compact dodder had only been collected once before, in 1958, in... Jackson County! Although the location data on the 1958 specimen is sparse, it almost certainly was collected within a few miles of the site where it was rediscovered in 2011.
So, a plant thought to be long gone from Ohio has been rediscovered, thanks to the intellectual curiosity of a landowner who wondered about an odd plant and made the effort to get an answer. I'll look forward to visiting this site next fall, when the compact dodder is in full flower and looking good.
By the way, the specimens of compact dodder will not go to waste. I'll provide the material to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History herbarium as a permanent record of this discovery.