The Squawroot or Cancer-root (Conopholis americana) is one of those strange woodland plants that commands our attention. Gray's Manual of Botany describes that the upper scales form bracts to the flowers, regularly imbricate, not unlike those of a pine-cone, hence the name Conopholis from the Greek, from conos (cone) and pholis (scale). Yellowish flowers grow between the scales. The squawroots are herbs destitute of green foliage. The plant is parasitic and gets its nourishment primarily from the roots of oak trees.
I have found this plant to be quite common in our area. Oftentimes it may be overlooked as it lies hidden under an umbrella of last year's fallen leaves on the forest floor.
Copyright © 2002 William T. Hathaway.