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Fungus or plant? White pine-cone shaped

Posted by chuckr30 z5, GR-MI (My Page) on
Mon, May 21, 07 at 8:32

Found this plant May 20, 2007 in Hoffmaster park in west Michigan. Each stalk is 3/4 inches wide, about 4 inches tall. Some stalks were 1 inch wide. It looks like a white pine cone. These grow in bunches and I saw no fewer than 8 bunches in the woods just at this one campsite area.

My flower book says an Indian pipestem is similar, but I saw an Indian pipestem as a kid and that had a 1/8 inch stalk, only 4 inches high when blooming.

This thing is clearly not blooming, it is in the early stages of growth.

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Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Fungus or plant? White pine-cone shaped

It might be a parasitic plant, Conopholis americana.

Here is a link that might be useful: Conopholis americana

RE: Fungus or plant? White pine-cone shaped

Carol is correct, it is squaw root. Your book is also correct, in that both squaw root and indian pipes are in the same family, Orobanchaceae. Squaw root is parasitic on the roots of oak trees, and is extremely common in the woods in Northeaster Ohio at this time of Year.

RE: Fungus or plant? White pine-cone shaped

We have these in a deep purplish/pink color on the forest floor of our property. They grow under the Madrone trees. We have oaks on the property, but these don't grow under them. I loved seeing them come up, but didn't know they may harm the trees. Should we try to knock some of them out? (We don't use poison on anything here) This is the first internet source I have found for any information on these at all - I know I'm not in a similar region as the original post. However, the photo shows an identical plant to the one we have (just a different color). What family of plants do these belong to? Are they a fungi or succulent, or are they in a category of their own? Are they identified by the fact they take their nutrients off of another plant (the roots of the tree)? Thanks.

RE: Fungus or plant? White pine-cone shaped

They are harmless.

Though called parasitic, I wouldn't doubt there is more of a symbiotic relationship than a parasitic one.

RE: Fungus or plant? White pine-cone shaped


Squawroot is only found in the eastern U.S. and only on oaks. Based on your description it is probably California groundcone (Boschniakia strobilacea) or another species of Boschniakia growing under the madrones. Same family, Orobanchaceae.

These are parasitic plants that lack chlorophyll and have leaves reduced to scale-like structures. Although they get all their nutrition from the tree, they should not do any harm. Consider the size of these plants in relation to the tree.

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