Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Squawroot - Conopholis americana   (L.) Wallroth
Members of Orobanchaceae:
Only member of Conopholis in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Scrophulariales » Family Orobanchaceae
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Author(L.) Wallroth
DistributionThroughout the Mountains. In the Piedmont, present over most of the western half, but quite sporadic over the eastern half, though practically absent in the far eastern Piedmont (east of Granville, Durham, and Richmond counties). Only a few widely scattered places in the Coastal Plain, but ranges certainly south to the northeastern corner (Currituck, northern Dare, Camden, and Gates counties), but extremely rare in the southern counties.

This is an Eastern species with a very bizarre range. It occurs from eastern Canada south to central FL and northeastern MS. Yet, despite being mostly absent from eastern NC and north to the Delmarva Peninsula, there are numerous records from the Coastal Plain of SC, GA, FL, and AL!
AbundanceCommon in the Mountains and in the Piedmont foothills ranges. Mostly uncommon in the central portions of the Piedmont, east to Rockingham, Davidson, and Mecklenburg counties. Rare to absent in the eastern third of the Piedmont. Uncommon in the northeastern corner of the Coastal Plain, rare in the southwestern portion toward SC, and essentially absent in the interior 75% of the Coastal Plain.
HabitatThis is a species of mesic to rich hardwood or mixed forests, being parasitic on the roots of oak trees. It is not a species of high pH soils, but often is found where rhododendrons or Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) are present, such as in Acidic Cove Forests, various Montane Oak Forests, Heath Bluffs, Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forests, and other similar places. It often can be found in rocky woods, as long as oaks are present.
PhenologyBlooms from March to June, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a very odd plant, almost looking like a fungus or some other non-vascular plant, lacking chrlorphyll. It is tube-like, or cone-like, growing to about 4-5 inches tall but nearly 1-inch wide, yellow-brown or golden-colored, covered in hundreds of overlapping scales. The top 1-2 inches of the stem contains the spike of rather large flowers, each curved to face forward and horizontally, with a hood and a lip, white to cream in color, about 1/2-inch long. But, when the plant is above ground, even when flowering, the golden-yellow color of the stem dominates the plant. The plants turn rather brown by later in fall. Most people are quite familiar with the species, and it can often be found almost daily on some mountain walks in oak-dominated forests. Normally, quite a few stems grow in a dense clump, making the species hard to miss, often being the only golden color on a forest floor.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Bearcorn, American Cancer-root
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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J. MickeyBUMO 2013-05-01 AlleghanyPhoto_natural
K. ToddCHRO 2013-04-12 RutherfordPhoto_natural
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