An inconspicuous woodland blossom

While building brush piles for small animals and birds to use as winter shelter in the woods surrounding our property I came across these beautiful, understated blossoms near the forest floor. Their common name is beechdrops.

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Their scientific name, Epifagus (epi = under, fagus = beech) virginiana tells that they only grow under beech trees. They are parasites of beech tree roots, that do no harm, but provide an interesting form of annual undergrowth.

According to the Connecticut Botanical Society, beechdrops are a native plant that blooms in Connecticut woodlands from August through October. The plants have no leaves.

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The entire plant grows from 6” to 20” tall, so it’s easy to overlook shorter beechdrops. The plants often remain standing, in dried form, through the winter. I’m anxious to look for them again after a light snowfall. I expect the skeletons of beechdrops will stand in beautiful contrast to freshly fallen snow.

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If you find one, or some, stop to enjoy the 1/2 inch-long blossoms. They remind me of tiny orchids.

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I’m regularly amazed by the new-to-me discoveries that reveal themselves on my own property. Autumn is a great season to walk Connecticut woodlands, they are wonderful classrooms for learning. All we have to do is visit and open our senses.

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8 comments for “An inconspicuous woodland blossom

  1. September 26, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I never knew! A plant that has no leaves? How do you find this stuff?? It is certainly a neat little oddity in our Connecticut woods, and I love to come here to see the plants and wildlife you discover. Thanks for this. I know now to look for it under beeches. Love the name — beechdrops!

    • September 26, 2012 at 10:45 am

      Laurrie, I just happened on a stand of beechdrops as I was working in the woods. I took a photo and went to the Connecticut Botanical Society website, a fantastic resource for native wildflowers, to try to identify my find. I always learn something during these searches.

  2. September 26, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Joene, why don’t you add a link to this post for Wildflower Wednesday at Clay and Limestone? http://www.clayandlimestone.com/2012/09/wildflower-wednesday-asteraceaes-rock.html I had never heard of beechdrops before and I bet a lot of other folks haven’t, either.

    • September 26, 2012 at 10:51 am

      Kathy, Done! Thanks so much for your suggestion. I was unaware of Wildflower Wednesday but will now try to join this meme more often.
      I was feeling like a dolt, not having seen beechdrops before … and they are in a wooded area I frequent. But it could be that they did not bloom in their current location in previous years. We recently did some clearing of damaged trees from the area. I’m wondering if the newly increased light to the area brought on the beechdrop bloom. I don’t feel like such a dolt now that I see that other well educated and curious garden bloggers, like you and Laurrie, were unaware of beechdrops.

  3. September 26, 2012 at 11:29 am

    What a fascinating plant! No leaves. Nature is so amazing to me sometimes. Thanks for highlighting it in your post.

  4. September 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Another wildflower I’ve only seen in books~How very cool! Thank you for sharing and joining WW

    • September 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      Gail, Thank you for hosting Wildflower Wednesday.

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