Bear Corn Conopholis americana (Linnaeus) Wallroth    Synonyms: American Cancer-Root.
Kingdom Plantae   >   Division Tracheophyta   >   Class Magnoliopsida   >   Order Lamiales   >   Family Orobanchaceae   >   Genus Conopholis   

Status:

Bear Corn is a perennial, parasitic, flowering plant that grows from Maine to Michigan and south to Tennessee and Florida. The genus name, Conopholis, meaning “cone-scale,” is derived from Greek: “conos” for cone, and “pholos” for scale. It blooms from May into June. Being parasitic, it obtains all of its nutrition from other plants, and lacks the chlorophyll that gives nonparasitic plants their green color and their ability to synthesize their own food from inorganic substances.

Description:

The stem of Bear Corn is thick and brown, 4 to 6 inches tall. It is covered with brown scales that are not true leaves. More than half the height of the plant consists of the dense inflorescence, which is sometimes compared to a pine cone in overall appearance (Voss and Reznicek, 2012). The stem arises from a thick underground tubercle which forms short roots with haustoria that invade the roots of host tissue. A large woody gall forms where the parasite’s root attaches to the oak root. The flowers, which are located on the thick stem, are pale yellow and less than a half-inch long.

Where to find:

Bear Corn’s habitat is rich woodlands having oaks and beeches.

Relationships:

Bear Corn is most commonly parasitic on the roots of oak species, and to a lesser extent on beech roots. The flowers may be pollinated by bee and fly species, but some flowers may be self-pollinated. When in fruit, the plant, with its many capsules, resembles an ear of corn. Each capsule contains many small seeds. The capsules, which mature while still sticky, attract animals such as Black Bears (when they are coming out of hibernation in spring), and White-tailed Deer, which eat and disperse the fruits and seeds (Illinois Wildflowers, Lobstein, 2020).

There are 176 records in the project database.

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Bear Corn in Green Ridge State Forest, Maryland (4/23/2010). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Garrett Co., Maryland (5/22/2016). Photo by Robert Ferraro. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Frederick Co., Maryland (5/13/2007). Photo by R. Child. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Frederick Co., Maryland (5/15/2018). Photo by Robert Warren. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Garrett Co., Maryland (5/10/2016). Photo by Ed Boyd. (MBP list)

Bear Corn growing in Garrett Co., Maryland (5/10/2016). Photo by Jim Stasz. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Frederick Co., Maryland (5/3/2018). Photo by Robert Warren. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Prince George's Co., Maryland (5/14/2016). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Montgomery Co., Maryland (5/19/2012). Photo by Fritz Flohr Reynolds. (MBP list)

Bear Corn growing in Allegany Co., Maryland (6/27/2016). Photo by Kimberly Booth. (MBP list)

Bear Corn about to go to seed in Garrett Co., Maryland (7/6/2013). Photo by Matt Tillett. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Frederick Co., Maryland (5/3/2017). (c) Krishun Karau, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Krishun Karau via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Montgomery Co., Maryland (4/24/2021). (c) dbstern, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by dbstern via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Frederick Co., Maryland (5/13/2021). (c) smct, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by smct via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Harford Co., Maryland (5/9/2018). Photo by Josh Emm. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Frederick Co., Maryland (5/21/2018). Photo by Richard Crook. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Prince George's Co., Maryland (5/31/2019). (c) Matthew Beziat, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Matthew Beziat. (MBP list)

Bear Corn in Frederick Co., Maryland (8/11/2019). (c) juliaburch, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by juliaburch via iNaturalist. (MBP list)


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