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Conopholis americana

Phonetic Spelling
koh-noh-FOH-lis a-mer-ih-KAY-nah
Description

Cancer-root is an herbaceous perennial parasitic plant in the boomrape (Orobanchaceae) family.  There is no evidence to prove that it can cure cancer.  You will find it growing in large areas of Eastern America on organically rich forest soils.  It needs well-drained soils but grows in a wide variety of light conditions.  This plant does not photosynthesize, hence its lack of the green pigment chlorophyll and it grows only where oak trees (Quercus spp.) are present. 

It typically grows from 2 to 8 inches tall and is less than an inch wide.  Inflorescences that look like the cones from a conifer break through the surface of the soil when the plants are approximately four years old after they have been growing underground attached to oak roots.  The inflorescence can appear anywhere from April-July depending on where you are on the east coast.  After flowering, the spikes turn brown and wither eventually turning black and persisting into winter.

The genus name Conopholis comes from Latin for 'cone' and 'scale' and refers to the appearance of the stems with scale-like flowers that resemble upright golden cones.

 

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#yellow#NC native#summer flowers#golden#countryside#spring interest#parasitic#woodlands
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#yellow#NC native#summer flowers#golden#countryside#spring interest#parasitic#woodlands
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Conopholis
    Species:
    americana
    Family:
    Orobanchaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    E. Canada, Central & E. U.S.A., S. Mexico, Costa Rica to Panama
    Distribution:
    Every state east of the Mississippi, Canada.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    Longer than wide capsule containing many tiny seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Cream to golden yellow spike inflorescences densely pact around erect stems resembles cones or cobs of corn that appear as early as April in warm areas like FL or as late as July in ME and bloom for a period of about three weeks. Tubular flowers are 1/2" long, 5 parted, are downward facing and have a swollen base. Flowers bloom from the bottom of the spike to the top.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Leaf Shape:
    Ovate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    No true leaves, brown ovate 1/2" long scales appear underneath each flower.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Thick (1/2 inch - 1 inch) stout unbranched stems.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Woodland