These curious plants need no chlorophyll, because they are parasites on the roots below them, though they are probably not large or numerous enough to be a serious inconvenience to the trees on which they feed. These particular plants were growing on a wooded hillside in Frick Park, where they were photographed in the middle of May.
Gray describes the genus and the species:
CONÓPHOLIS Wallr. SQUAW-ROOT.CANCER-ROOT. Flowers with 2 bractlets at the base of the irregularly 4-5-toothed calyx, its tube split down on the lower side. Corolla tubular, swollen at base; upper lip arched, notched at the summit, the lower shorter, 3-parted, spreading. Stigma depressed. Capsule with 4 placentae, a pair on the middle of each valve. — Upper scales forming bracts to the flowers, regularly imbricate, not unlike those of a fir-cone (whence the name, from konos, a cone, and pholis, a scale).
С americana (L. f.) Wallr.— In woods, mostly under oaks, in clusters among fallen leaves; s. Me. to Mich., s. to Fla. and Tenn. May, June. — A singular plant, chestnut-eojored or yellowish throughout, as thick as a man’s thumb, 1-2.5 dm. high, covered with fleshy scales, which become dry and hard.