Epifagus virginiana (L.) Bart.

Beech Drops

Epifagus virginiana plant

Family - Orobanchaceae

Stems - No info yet.

Epifagus virginiana stem

Leaves - Absent. Plant lacks leaves and chlorophyll.

Inflorescence - No info yet.

Flowers - No info yet.

Epifagus virginiana flowerChasmogamous flower side-view...

Epifagus virginiana flower...Front-view.

Epifagus virginiana flowersCleistogamous flowers.

Flowering - August - October.

Habitat - Beech woods of the Crowley Ridge (SE Missouri).

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This interesting little species is found in just a few southeast Missouri counties where Beech trees (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) occur. The plant is parasitic on the roots of the Beech. It produces no chlorophyll and thus lacks green coloration. The brown stems are hard too see against the fallen leaves on the forest floor. Becasue of this, the plant is often overlooked.
E. virginiana produces both cleistogamous and chasmogamous flowers. The chasmogamous flowers are located near the tips of the stems and the cleistogamous flowers are located near the middle and base of the stems. The cleistogamous flowers are pistillate and fertile. The chasmogamous flowers are typically sterile.
This species was used medicinally by natives for a variety of ailments. A tea made from the fresh plant was used for diarrhea, dysentery, mouth sores, and cold sores. Settlers thought the plant may be a treatment for cancer but tests proved negative.

Photographs taken at Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge, AL., 10-2-05.