Parasitic herb 5 - 20 cm tall Stem: stout, erect, unbranched. Leaves: to 2 cm long, more than 3 mm wide, scale-like, triangular, overlapping, covering most of the stem. Flowers: numerous, borne on a spike resembling a pine cone and making up half or more of the shoot, subtended by bracts 8 - 13 mm long. Petals are pale yellowish, 8 - 14 mm long, and fused into a two-lipped tubular shape. Fruit: an egg-shaped, two-valved capsule with a persistent style, containing many seeds.
Similar species: Orobanche uniflora and Orobanche fasciculata are easy to distinguish by having only one to ten flowers per plant. Epifagus virginiana differs by having slender, branched stems with small (less than 3 mm wide), lance-shaped scales.
Flowering: mid May to mid June
Habitat and ecology: A parasite of oak tree roots.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: The species in the Orobanchaceae family lack chlorophyll.
Etymology: Conopholis comes from the Greek words conos, meaning cone, and pholis, meaning scale.Americana means "from America."
Parasitic on several kinds of oaks, pale brown or yellowish throughout; stems stout, erect, 5-20 cm; lf-scales ovate or broadly lanceolate, to 2 cm; spike usually constituting half or more of the shoot, 1.3-2.8 cm thick, the bracts about equaling the 8-13 mm cal; cor 8-14 mm; 2n=40. Rich woods; N.S. to Fla., w. to n. Mich., Wis., Ill., and Ala. May, June.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Infrequent to frequent or local in all parts of the state. It is inconspicuous, and for this reason it often may be overlooked, and, no doubt, it is more frequent than the reports indicate. In Indiana it is parasitic on species of oak, probably most commonly on the white oak. It is generally found in woods with a deep cover of leaves, in such places as ravines and on protected slopes.