Welcome! Today we are going to discuss Bear Corn (Conopholis americana). Bear Corn is part of the Orobanche family of plants. Bear Corn is native to the eastern coast of the United States. American Black Bears like to eat this plant (a partial reason for its name!) along with others including:
Bear Corn is a perennial parasitic plant – it gets its nourishment only from the roots of Oak trees (and sometimes American Beech trees). As the plant ages, it resembles a dried pinecone or even corn (hence the other partial reason for its name!). You may look at Bear Corn and wonder if it is even a plant at all since it lacks any kind of green to it. This is because the plant does not perform photosynthesis due to all of its food requirements being provided by the roots of Oak trees. This is why you will likely find this odd little plant growing in dense shade on the forest floor as no sunlight is required for it to thrive.
Bear Corn makes its appearance in Oak dominated woods generally between May and June. The seeds of this plant must attach to the roots of an Oak tree in order to thrive. It takes about four years for the Bear Corn plant to appear after the seed has germinated.
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