Plant-Insect Interaction: Bees on a Squawroot

squawroot

Squawroot on Big Fork Ridge. Photographed 04/11/2016 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

Squawroot (Conopholis americana, Orobanchaceae) is a fascinating plant because it is a parasite of other plants. Found in eastern North America it feeds predominantly on nutrients produced by oaks and beeches (family Fagaceae). Since it does not perform photosynthesis and lacks the green chlorophyll found in most plants, it does not have true leaves. Instead small brown scales hug each of the equally small cream-colored flowers.

squawrootbee

Bee on a squawroot on Big Fork Ridge. Photographed 04/11/2016 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

Also known as American cancer-root or bear corn, this seemingly unimpressive plant still manages to attract insect pollinators and reproduce. Although the flowers are small and lack color and aroma, insects are still drawn to the sweet nectar.

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Bumble bee on a squawroot on Big Fork Ridge. Photographed 04/11/2016 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

The squawroot that I found on Big Fork Ridge at Great Smoky Mountains National Park the other day had attracted quite a crowd of various bees (Hymenoptera: Anthophila), all vying to extract what nectar they could from this plant. In early April it was one of few nectar-producing plants the bees could find.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Ecology, Entomology, National Parks, Organism Interactions and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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