Saturday, May 7, 2016
One-flowered Cancer Root
Mark Bower photographed this dainty beauty. Wildflowers don't get much smaller than this and you are seeing all there is to it. This is a Single-flowered Cancer Root (Orobanche uniflora), also called One-flowered Broomrape. Not particularly warm and fuzzy names.
It grows on a 3 to 10 inch stem with a single white or purple flower. Don't bother looking for green leaves because it doesn't have any. It also lacks chlorophyll like Spring Coralroot, Dutchman's Pipe and Indian Pipe but that is where the similarity ends. Those species get their carbon and nutrients from a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi.
The Cancer Root is a parasite on multiple plant species including Sedums and members of the families Saxifragaceae and Asteraceae. Since these plants are wide spread it is able to grow all over the US and Canada. The tiny wind-blown seed require a chemical from its host plant before they will germinate. They will sometime seem to disappear from an area, only to reappear later, probably due to underground roots only producing flowers occasionally. Needless to say, these do not transplant well.
More information at Illinois Wildflowers.