Beechdrops Epifagus virginiana (Linnaeus) Bartram    Synonyms: Beech Drops, Leptamnium virginianum.
Kingdom Plantae   >   Division Tracheophyta   >   Class Magnoliopsida   >   Order Lamiales   >   Family Orobanchaceae   >   Genus Epifagus   

Status:

Beechdrops grow throughout much of eastern North America. They lack chlorophyll so are incapable of photosynthesis. They obtain their nutrition by parasitizing the roots of American Beech trees. Their genus name, Epifagus, comes from Greek: "epi" meaning upon, and "fagus" meaning beech.

Description:

When young, these slender plants are cream, tan, or purple-striped. With age, they turn brown. The stems, which grow to 6-18 inches tall, are commonly much branched. The leaves are reduced to scales, located beneath some of the flowers. Beechdrops produce two kinds of flowers: The upper ones, which are few, are open (chasmogamous) but most of these are sterile; the lower flowers, which are more numerous, are closed (cleistogamous, or "secret"), self-pollinating, and set fruit in the bud. These lower flowers produce most of the seeds of this annual plant. "The fruits that form are capsules containing many small seeds. The young seedlings begin to grow into the tissue of the host roots. Special short roots called grappers form, and structures called haustoria develop from the roots. These haustoria “suck” nutrients from the roots of the host plant" (Lobstein, 2020).

Where to find:

Beechdrops grow beneath Beech trees. Because of Beechdrops' dull color, the plants often go unnoticed. They germinate, grow, and set seed in late summer and early fall. The dead, dry stems may persist through the winter.

Relationships:

The upper, open flowers are pollinated by the False Honey Ant.

There are 255 records in the project database.

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Beechdrops growing in Talbot Co., Maryland (9/23/2019). Photo by Jim Moore. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in bloom in Howard Co., Maryland (10/2/2014). Photo by Nancy Magnusson. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Prince George's Co., Maryland (8/30/2017). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (9/3/2011). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Prince George's Co., Maryland (8/29/2014). Photo by Fritz Flohr Reynolds. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Baltimore Co., Maryland (10/10/2016). Photo by Bob Spicer. (MBP list)

Beechdrops blooming in Montgomery Co., Maryland (9/10/2014). Photo by Elizabeth Miller. (MBP list)

Beechdrops blooming in Montgomery Co., Maryland (9/10/2014). Photo by Elizabeth Miller. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Prince George's Co., Maryland (11/27/2015). Photo by Dan Small. (MBP list)

Beechdrops growing in Caroline Co., Maryland (4/26/2016). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Beechdrops blooming in Harford Co., Maryland (9/10/1983). Photo by Jim Stasz. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Talbot Co., Maryland (9/23/2019). (c) Jim Moore (Maryland), some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Jim Moore (Maryland) via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Garrett Co., Maryland (9/8/2019). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Talbot Co., Maryland (3/26/2016). Photo by Dan Small. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (10/2/2010). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Kent Co., Maryland (3/22/2016). Photo by Dan Small. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Charles Co., Maryland (1/16/2017). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Queen Anne's Co., Maryland (10/22/2020). (c) Wayne Longbottom, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (9/16/2017). (c) Max Ramey, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Max Ramey via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Queen Anne's Co., Maryland (11/21/2020). (c) johnbotany, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by John Hall. (MBP list)

Beechdrops in Queen Anne's Co., Maryland (9/12/2020). (c) Wayne Longbottom, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)


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