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Beech Tree Parasites

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October 2013

One of the pleasures of volunteering out in the woods is looking around for other plants while pulling invasive privet. Beech Drops were one of the finds Tuesday, something I've heard of but never noticed. They are easy to miss since most of the year they look like a dead twig but I was drawn by a circle of orange flags. I assume one of the Wolf Creek Preserve botanists marked this area.

Here's a photo of one of the dozen plants. All I had was my iPhone and only one shot was decent enough to share.

More info and closeups below the fold.

Beech Drops are a parasite of the American Beech (Fagus grandifolia).  The scientific name is Epifagus americana which actually makes a lot of sense since "epi" means upon or attached to. Beech trees are a East coast native altho I read they once covered the whole continent. Beech Drops are in the Orobanchaeae or Broomrape family. That family also includes squawroot and FOYI's Gerardia. Apparently the family divides into Parasitic and Hemiparasitic genera. Wiki has more on that and someday I will read up on the semi-parasitical aspect of Gerardia. Right now it doesn't make much sense.

Your basic Wiki:  

Beechdrops lack both leaves and chlorophyll, they only have small pinkish flowers that are hard to distinguish from the rest of the plant.[1] The flowers can be either cleistogamous or chasmogamous, while the chasmogamous flowers are located near the tips of the stems the cleistogamous flowers are located closer to the stems base.
The 2 C-words mean non-opening and self-pollinating and the other, opens but sterile.

You can see parts of a beech leaf with the toothed edges. I may run over to Wolf Creek next week and not wait until the next workday on Nov. 12. Hopefully I can find it with flowers open and take some better pictures.  Here's another crop of the photo showing the bottom. I see 2 plants with little bulb-like bases, the one in front appears to have only 1 stem. Sorta looks like a watercolor when you zoom in this close.

That's all for this bucket. It was 59º last night in Tallahassee and forecast to reach mid-80s but not-so-summer humid. Yes! It's fall in North Florida. I can see leaves falling off the cherry trees. That's a good thing as the forest floor is barren from all the summer rain decomposing or washing away the leaf litter. I'll be outside playing in the woods and yard and check in from time to time.

And The Daily Bucket is now open for your thoughts and observations...

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