I was walking in the forest near my home which is located in the
southern Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico. Our elevation is just over
7700 feet. Maybe growing zone 6, but it gets very cold. The forest is
composed mostly of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and some kind of oak trees.
I found these things, maybe a fungus, and I have not ever seen anything
like them before. I have gone through my mushroom field guide and there
is not anything close. I have posted photos on Webshots and the ones in
question are named Mystery 15-21. Click on the photo for a larger view.
One of the photos has my (ladies') glove in it for size reference.
The largest of these things is about 4 inches tall and about an inch
wide. We had 24 degree weather last night so it may be that the ends of
the "spikes" wouldn't be brown otherwise. Who knows? This is the link
If you can identify these, I certainly would appreciate it. My curosity
is just about to kill me.
LaUna, near Cloudcroft, NM
They certainly are odd things and the first time I came across them in
the woods I thought they looked like some sort of pine cone, growing up
out of the ground. The thought of fungus also crossed my mind. They
are neither. They are called squawroot or cancer-root and they are
parasitic on the roots of trees. They have no chlorophyll or leaves.
The one I'm familiar with is Conopholis americana but yours are more
likely C. alpina given your location.
Thank you so much. The links are great and, indeed, these are the same
growths that I found. I look forward to reading everything on the links
you sent. On the first link, I did not find that NM was listed as
having the squawroot. I will read more carefully and maybe send them a
Thanks again for your willingness to spend your time to educate me.
Harvey Schmidlapp wrote:
If you look at the first (large) map, you will see two regions shaded
green. The area to the east of the Mississippi (plus Iowa) is for
Conopholis americana. The area including Texas, New Mexico, Colorado
and Arizona is for C. alpina. Note the two smaller maps below that that
show the reagons for each species. This page is just for that one species:
Yeah, I looked again and saw that NM was included.
I was in a hurry this morning to get out into my garden and do some seed
planting. I think by the time everything comes up, we will be through
with the 24 degree weather. Interestingly, I put out broccoli, cabbage
and onions plants about 6 weeks ago and we had a foot of snow about 2
weeks ago and everything is fine.
Harvey Schmidlapp wrote:
On Sun, 02 May 2004 23:38:31 -0400, Harvey Schmidlapp
Are they truly parasitic living from the live roots from live trees?
The reason I ask is that last url says that he'd seen one growing on a
piece of *wood* in a cave, not a plant. So do they live on decaying
wood of any kind.. including dying tree roots like fungi?
I've never seen these things, but I've not been too far either, and
not for many years!
Janice, these are truly things that grow on the roots of live trees. In
this case, the trees are oaks.
In the case of one being found on a "piece of wood in a cave", the only
thing I can think of is that possibly an old root with an existing
growth somehow got into the cave. Not knowing the cave, it could be
that it floated in during a flood, or was carried in to be used as
firewood. Who knows?
Since finding the first "colony", I have found more on what seem to be
the roots of another oak that is near the first tree. Later today, I
will probably go and look around another grove of oaks that is located
far from the first ones. I am interested to find out if the squawroot
infects all of our oaks. I wonder how that would happen? I really
can't find out very much about them on the net. I guess I will try the
library the next time we go to town.
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