Squawroot (Conopholis americana) is also known as Cancer Root and Bear Cone. It’s a strange and fascinating little plant that looks like a pinecone, produces no chlorophyll of its own, and lives mostly underground as a parasite on the roots of oak trees, seemingly without harming them. It’s also known to have medicinal properties. Keep reading to learn more about the squawroot plant.
American Squawroot Plants
The squawroot plant has an unusual life cycle. Its seeds sink into the ground near a tree in the red oak family. Unlike other plants, which immediately send up leaves to collect chlorophyll, the squawroot seed’s first order of business is to send down roots. These roots travel down until they make contact with the oak’s roots, and they latch on.
It is from these roots that the squawroot gathers all its nutrients. For four years, the squawroot remains underground, living off of its host plant. In the spring of the fourth year, it emerges, sending up a thick white stalk covered in brown scales, which can reach a foot (30 cm) in height.
As summer wears on, the scales pull back and fall off, revealing tubular white flowers. The squawroot flower is pollinated by flies and bees and produces, eventually, a round white seed that falls to the ground to begin the process again. The parent squawroot will survive as a perennial for as many as 6 more years.
Squawroot Uses and Information
Squawroot is edible, and it has a long history of medicinal use as an astringent. It supposedly gets its name from Native Americans’ use of it to treat the symptoms of menopause. It has been used to treat hemorrhages and headaches, and bleeding in of the bowel and uterus.
The stalk can also be dried and brewed into a tea.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.