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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Thursday - October 04, 2012

From: Dinwiddie, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of a plant saprophytic on oaks
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What is name of plant poking up through the leaves near base of oak tree that appears as a cluster of yellow-brown stalks that resemble small pinecones or pineapples or cobs of corn?

ANSWER:

This sounds like Conopholis americana (American cancer-root), a saprophytic plant that feeds on the roots of oak trees.   Here is more information from Illinois Wildflowers and from Plants of Wisconsin.  Here are photos from Southwest Virginia Flora.

If this isn't the plant you saw and you have photos of it, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


American cancer-root
Conopholis americana

American cancer-root
Conopholis americana

American cancer-root
Conopholis americana

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