Appalachia Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Bear Corn

Bear corn
Conopholis americana is a small parasitic plant that typically grows near oak trees. It is commonly called bear corn, cancer root, squaw root, squaw corn,  or bear cabbage.

Bear corn squaw root cancer root

According to this page bear love to eat the plant so I guess bear corn is a good name for it. I’ve seen it while hiking in Swain and Haywood counties but have never seen it near my house until a few weeks ago. Whether it’s rare in this area or I’ve walked right over it for years I couldn’t tell you. It is an interesting little plant. Have you ever seen it?

Tipper

 

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28 Comments

  • Reply
    Kat Moore
    April 10, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    I am also in Roane Co., TN. Bear Corn is plentiful on our 3.5 acres, but I’ve seen no bears or prints. I suppose that’s why we have so much of it. It would be bear paradise, with all the wild nuts and berries, here, so no doubt, they will find us.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    May 15, 2016 at 6:21 am

    I don’t recall seeing this before. I will keep an eye out for it on hikes.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    May 6, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    b. Ruth – our bluebird house is probably 6 ft above ground (same place it’s been since Daddy put it there probably 20 years ago). This is the first year I’ve seen martins in it. Think I’ll take your advice and drop it (and another one at the upper end of the garden) down a bit. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 6, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Tipper–I’m somewhat surprised that more of your readers haven’t seen squaw root. It is extremely common all over the southern Appalachians. I say that based on time spent in the turkey woods. I see it very frequently when hunting them in the spring, and there’s scads of it in the Park as well. In fact, I saw a bunch of it in Nantahala Gorge on Wednesday (i’m writing this on Friday) when trout fishing.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    May 6, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    I’ve seen it alot in Eastern KY. never heard it called bear corn. Heard it called squaw root.

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    May 6, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Very interesting!!! I’ve never heard of this before, though I know one needs to be careful around fruit and nut trees, and corn and vegetable acreage in the fall because bears can be eating among them bulking up before hibernation.
    I wonder why it’s considered parasitic, and if it only grows in certain parts of the country.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    May 5, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    TIPPER: Today the person b, Ruth referred to Roane County in her post. NOW I am so curious to know if she is from Roane County, TN
    THAT IS MY COUNTY!
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    (865)482-2545

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 5, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    note…
    I meant to post Bluebird height of box should be between 4 and 5 ft. We actually measured one we have that has housed bluebirds for quite a few years and it is 5′ 1/2″ foot high measured from the bottom of the box, however, the road that supports the pole that it is mounted on, has washed out almost 6″…go figure! “If you build it they will come”…or is that saying only privy to baseball fields and players?
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 5, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    I can’t recall ever seeing this plant. It is supposed to grow in every state west of the Mississippi and half of Canada.
    I have only ever seen one black bear in the wild outside the park. I was driving down Old Fort Mountain on I-40 one evening. Out ahead of me on the far side was what I thought at first was a big black dog. As I got closer I saw it was a bear and it was really moving. It cleared the three lanes of the westbound side in about three leaps, paused on top of the barricade for an instant, then across 4 lanes on my side in about 4 leaps. With the fifth leap he cleared the barricade on the side of the highway and disappeared down the mountainside.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 5, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Tipper,
    I went out of the office to get another coffee warmer when I heard one of those nice sounds again. It was Paul and Pap singing “Angels of Mercy.” I hurried back into the office so I wouldn’t miss anything. Looks like other folks enjoy their music too…Ken

  • Reply
    Tamela
    May 5, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Fascinating!

  • Reply
    Jack
    May 5, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    I have seen it on several occasions on mountain hiking trails. Supposedly can be used for a tea and folk medicine purposes (e.g. treat menopause symptoms – ergo squaw root).

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 5, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Tipper,
    I’m back, for a short comment!
    Yes, I have seen Squaw Corn, Squawroot, Bear Corn, etc. called by several names…I prefer to call it Squaw Corn on my wooded Oak hill…since it “skeers” the “dickens” out of me to think that “Bear Corn” might be fodder for the Black bears…The neighbor down the ridge from us, still swears he has seen bear on his place in the wooded area. Bears have roamed here in Roane county…but I don’t think were planning to stay. Like all of us traveling, you have to go through some varying elevations and strange neighborhoods to get back home. Yep, for years those well intentioned rangers moved bears around! Then they just went back where their home was originally, eating (bear corn) and other mast on the way! Most of the time they didn’t pack and carry a to go traveling picnic! ha
    Thanks Tipper,
    to Don, I wouldn’t put up Martin Gourds right now…Why, they do eat honeybees and other bees…
    Even though some say that they don’t not significantly anyhow, I have heard bee keepers around here complain of martins eating their honeybees…In Tennessee the honeybee population needs all the help it can get. ha PS…Could your Bluebird house be a touch too high…lower it a bit…I have all mine between 4 and 6 feet…I have seen martins but we have too many trees and they generally like lines to roost on as well as space to fly and dive…just wondering!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 5, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Tipper,
    A few years ago when the Deer Hunter was helping me with a new reservoir installation way up on the mountain, we noticed something had come off the bank. He carefully removed some leaves and showed me a Bear Track. About 50 feet above that, under some laurels, but right in the trail, there’s a whole patch of those things. I never knew what they were, at first I thought I’d found a patch of Moral Mushrooms, but they look more like pine cones. It’s good to know it’s called Bear Corn. Thanks! …Ken

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    May 5, 2016 at 10:58 am

    I can’t remember seeing it when we have been out hiking. It kind of looks like a weird little corn on the cob or pine cone. If the bears love it, more power to them!
    Pam
    scrap-n-sewgranny.blogspot.com

  • Reply
    Patsy
    May 5, 2016 at 10:43 am

    I have never seen this plant…if I ever do I will leave the area in case there are hungry bears wondering around.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    May 5, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Now I’ve seen plenty of squaw root in the Smokies, and I’ve seen plenty of bears in the Smokies. But I’ve never seen a bear nibbling on it. That doesn’t mean a lot, since usually black bears take off lickety split when they see you.
    I have a hard time accepting the claims that it makes up anything close to fifteen percent of a black bear’s diet or provides 16% of the annual energy. It appears that the primary evidence for those claims is based on bear scat analysis, and the scat was collected along trails (see link below).
    http://www.bearbiology.com/fileadmin/tpl/Downloads/URSUS/Vol_4/Beeman_Pelton_Vol_4.pdf
    Bumblebees will definitely work on the blooms, so I suspect honey bees will as well, but don’t recall seeing honey bees on them.

  • Reply
    Quinn
    May 5, 2016 at 9:35 am

    I’ve only seen pictures. But now that I’ve said that, the next time I’m out in the woods I’ll probably trip over it! 😉

  • Reply
    Carol Rosenbalm
    May 5, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Tipper,
    I’ve only seen one bear cone it was in Cades cove picnic area. They are beautiful to look at. You said bears eat them can humans?
    Just asking!
    Carol Rosenbalm
    PS you can’t take or eat anything in the national park!

  • Reply
    Cynthia Schoonover
    May 5, 2016 at 8:26 am

    I’ve never heard of nor seen bear corn, as I don’t know if it grows in the suburbs or not. We do have oak trees in the area.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 5, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Yep. Seen it many a time. Hard to see what the bears like so much. Even for wildflower lovers it isn’t so very attractive. It seems not to last long once it emerges. I expect it is liking the raon and (former) warm temperatures.
    Makes me think of morel hunting also. It has been many a year since I had any morels.
    I like to find the Indian pipes or the pinesap better than the bear corn though. The Indian pipes are milky white, turning pink sometimes and pinesap is red-orange.

  • Reply
    Charles Ronald Perry, Sr.
    May 5, 2016 at 8:16 am

    It is possible that a bear ate the plant somewhere else and deposited the seeds through natural process near your home as it passed through (or possibly took up residence nearby). Interesting story.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 5, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Tip, I don’t recall seeing that plant but there are so many plants in the woods that it might be lost in the memory jumble. As you get older you’ll understand what the memory jumble is. Ha!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 5, 2016 at 7:13 am

    How interesting. From the photos it looks like it has kernels like corn too.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 5, 2016 at 7:13 am

    How interesting. From the photos it looks like it has kernels like corn too.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 5, 2016 at 7:13 am

    How interesting. From the photos it looks like it has kernels like corn too.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 5, 2016 at 7:13 am

    How interesting. From the photos it looks like it has kernels like corn too.

  • Reply
    colleen Holmes
    May 5, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Wow! Bear corn. That’s new to me. Wonder if it’s native to Michigan, or is it a southern plant? Looks like a pine cone.

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