Squawroot
or
Cancer-root

By William T. Hathaway

Squawroot or Cancer-root

On woodland hikes during April and May students are often surprised by some strange-looking plant seeming to sneak up from below the fallen leaf litter. This specimen of Squawroot or Cancer-root (Conopholis americana) had become well established atop the forest floor. Spiked scales in place of leaves account for its extraordinary appearance: the upper scales with enclosed flowers are arranged in such a way as to resemble pine-cones. Actually, this herbaceous plant is a root-parasite on trees.

Gray's Manual of Botany lists the generic name Conopholis as derived from the Greek conos (cone) and pholis (scale). The specific name, americana (American), is obvious.


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