Squawroot

(Conopholis americana)

This perennial parasitic plant spreads over a large area around a host tree (mostly oak but also beech): yellowish tubers with fleshy, overlapping scale-like leaves below and a dense, fleshy spike of flowers above, look like cones of the white pine. Squawroot is an increasingly uncommon and possibly threatened plant that only grows in old forests. The squawroot seedling grows underground for about four years. During this time the seedling attaches itself to the roots of the host tree, forming large, swollen knobs. At four years of age the plant sends up its scaly, flowering stems. The flowers produce a scent (between carrion and cabbage) that attracts pollinators: flies and bumblebees. White-tailed deer, black bear, and other mammals feed on this plant and spread the seeds around. It is called squawroot because Native Americans treated it for menopause symptoms, bleeding in the bowel and uterus, and headaches. Squawroot is found in abundance in Duff Park in and around the old growth forest: Forbes, Trillium, and Wake Robin Trails.