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Beechdrops, Cancer Drops, Clapwort, Virginia Broomrape - Epifagus virginiana


Family: Orobanchaceae - Broom-rape family Genus Common Name: Beechdrops Native Status: NativeDicot Annual Herb
Epifagus virginiana - Beechdrops, Cancer Drops, Clapwort, Virginia Broomrape. Epifagus is monotypic - E. virginiana is the only species in the genus. It is a member of Orobanchaceae - the largest parasitic plant family. The genus name is indicative of itís preferential host species - Fagus is the genus of Beech trees. Epifagus virginiana is almost exclusively parasitic on American Beech - Fagus grandifolia. A study published in "The Michigan Botanist" confirmed this long-held belief, although there is some indication that when Maple trees are mixed with Beech, as is often the case, Epifagus may also, perhaps "accidentally" attach itself to the roots of Acer species as well as Fagus species.

Epifagus virginiana is found throughout most of the eastern United States and eastern Canada, as well as eastern Mexico. It has been used in herbal medicines to treat dysentery, cancer, and gonorrhea ("clap"), yielding the Cancer Drops and Clapwort common names.

Found in:
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV

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Epifagus virginiana

Distribution of Epifagus virginiana in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 29 Apr 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Blue Ridge Parkway, Linn Cove Viaduct, Avery County, NC Date: 2014-September-01Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The flower of Beechdrops have brown-purple stripes on a white corolla. Flowers in the upper and lower parts of the inflorescence are somewhat differently shaped - lower are pistillate, while the upper ones are perfect (although reportedly functionally staminate,) and are larger.
Epifagus virginiana

Site: Blue Ridge Parkway, Linn Cove Viaduct, Avery County, NC Date: 2014-September-01Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Use for daily plant) Beechdrops is a more common plant than it seems because the coloration of the plant blends in well with the surrounding vegetation. It blooms in August through November, when there are many leaves on the forest floor.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Epifagus virginiana

Site: Blue Ridge Parkway, Linn Cove Viaduct, Avery County, NC Date: 2014-September-01Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Click on the photo for a larger image
Epifagus virginiana

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer