It was high on my list to search for when we went camping with friends near Tofino in mid-May. On the very first day, a young friend spotted one & brought it to my attention. Score!
It’s included in a list of ‘oddballs’ in my favorite field guide (Pojar & MacKinnon’s, Plants Of The Pacific Northwest Coast.) Who needs space aliens when we have mysteries like this on earth? Is it a flower? Mushroom? Fungi?
It’s called a Vancouver groundcone, & I can see why. The shape is so similar to a spruce cone standing upright. Another name is Poque – an anglicized version of an indigenous word.
The unusual coloring indicates the groundcone lacks chlorophyll, & that means it can’t produce its own sugars. For food, it depends on others. It’s a parasitic plant, that taps nutrients from a salal and sometimes kinnikinnick.
Both salal & kinnikinnick are common on our coastlines, so you’d think there’d be plenty of groundcones. Perhaps there are more around, but I just haven’t been looking for them before?
Boschniakia hookeri grows in the moist (summer dry) coastal lowlands from Haida Gwaii in Central Coastal BC to Northern California. This is the first time I’ve ever seen any. Go figure. Perhaps because they don’t need sunshine, they’re more common in shade, and more difficult to see?
Aside from the yellow specimens I saw, Poque is found in a variety of colors from light yellow to brown to red or purple. I suspect the yellow contrasts more with its environment, so is slightly easier to spot. Once young WC showed me a few he’d spotted, I was able to find a few myself.
Now that I’ve checked this plant off my list, next up are more oddballs: Indian Pipe & Pinesaps. Wish me luck!