Parasitic herb 10 - 50 cm tall Stem: slender, with many long and ascending branches, pale brown, often with fine brownish purple lines. Leaves: alternate, 2 - 4 mm long, less than 3 mm wide, scale-like, lance-shaped, scattered along stem. Flowers: solitary, axillary, of two types. Lower flowers are female, 5 mm long, with sepals fused into a five-ribbed cup-shape and tubular petals that do not open. Upper flowers bisexual but functionally male, white with purplish brown stripes, to 1 cm long, tubular, four-lobed. Fruit: 5 mm long, slanting, opening at the top.
Similar species: Orobanche uniflora and Orobanche fasciculata are easy to distinguish by having only one to ten flowers per plant. Conopholis americana differs because it resembles an upright pine cone and has thick, unbranched stems with many large (more than 3 mm wide) triangle-shaped scales.
Flowering: mid August to mid September
Habitat and ecology: Parasitic to beech trees, this species is found in the easten part of the Chicago Region near older beech trees with relatively undisturbed groundcover.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Etymology: Epifagus comes from the Greek words, epi, meaning upon, and phagos, meaning beech, referring to this plant's parasitic habit on beech roots. Virginiana means "from Virginia."
Parasitic on the roots of beech; stems generally pale brown, usually with fine brown-purple lines, 1-5 dm, with numerous long, ascending branches; lf-scales triangular-ovate, 2-4 mm; lower fls 5 mm; cor of upper fls 1 cm, white, commonly with 2 brown-purple stripes; fr somewhat oblique, 5 mm, dehiscent across the top. Under beech trees; Que. and N.S. to Wis., s. to Fla. and La. Aug.-Oct. (Leptamnium v.)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.