Woody weed


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We have these woody weeds on one shady side of our lawn and into our wood line. Their stems are hard and woody. They appear brown and tan and at the tips of the branches a bit brownish purple. The tips of the branches open and appear hollow. The bees are attracted to the tips of the branches much like a flower. The roots are almost artichoke like and hard. They appear in the summer and have a growth spert around now (August/September) They dry out and die back each year. What is it? Could it be used for anything? 20210827_152440.jpg20210827_152523.jpg20210827_152603.jpg
 
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This is a parasitic plant known as Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) in the Broomrape family (Orobanchaceae). It does not photosynthesize but obtains it nutrients by attaching to the roots of American Beech trees (Fagus grandifolia). Are there any Beech trees nearby? Even though Beechdrops feed off the tree roots, they do not cause mature trees any harm.

What an especially intriguing wildflower to have near your house! I don't know if it has any medicinal uses or such, but it is a wonderful natural feature to cherish and study. Do the flowers ever open, or do they stay closed like in the photos? The bees may be pollinating the open chasmogamous flowers, but there are also flowers that never open and only self-pollinate, called cleistogamous flowers.
 
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