Spotting another parasitic plant

I was delighted to see a parasitic plant in the forest here in Virginia. It was an Indian Pipe, a completely white plant lacking any green chlorophyl.

Indian Pipe

Just down the slope I spot another curious plant. It looks like a couple of white sweetcorn are pushing out of the earth.

Conopholis americana - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s Conopholis americana, known as American Cancer-Root, Squawroot, Bumeh or Bear Corn. It’s a plant which doesn’t produce its own food by photosynthesis but acts as a parasite on Oak trees. It’s a plant which never becomes green. It’s a plant which never produces leaves. It’s a plant whose seeds produce a root which searches deep within the earth for the roots of Oak trees and then spends its life parasitising them. That’s a pretty cool plant.

It’s been used in Native American medicine for generations, hence the name Squawroot. It’s also food for bears, hence the name Bear Corn. Which makes me think; are there any bears here?

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