Friday, March 25, 2011

Squawroot - Conopholis americana

Here’s something to watch for while you’re out looking for woodland wildflowers. Squawroot, Conopholis americana, is parasitic on oak trees. The bulk of the plant is underground where it bonds with the roots of the tree. It’s one of those odd plants that lacks chlorophyll and takes all of its energy from the host.

The flower buds are hidden behind rough looking scales. The emerging flowers push themselves up over the lip of the scale.

The flower spikes of Squawroot emerge from the ground looking like malformed pine cones. Squawroot is like the person that never seems to fit in. In the middle of a woods full of enchanting and delicate spring flowers, you have this brute of a spike pushing through the leaves, displaying its unhealthy looking browns and pale yellows. It’s not hard to see why some hikers give it a wide berth, as though afraid of contracting whatever disease has ravaged the plant.

Photos taken April 25, 2010 in Adams County, Ohio.

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