Kopsiopsis species—Ground-cones

by Doreen Smith

Kopsiopsis species are known as ground-cones, because when in bud they look very much like odd fleshy conifer cones. Kopsiopsis hookeri and Kopsiopsis strobilacea are parasitic plants in the plant family Orobanchaceae.
They used to be called Boschniakia species.

Locally rare, these plants are an interesting find for Marin County hikers. Both species are associated with the roots of plants in the Ericaceae, such as Arctostaphylos, Gaultheria, or Vaccinium.

Kopsiopsis hooker 2016 04 13 4091cssmall ground-cone, Kopsiopsis hookeri
The small ground-cone, Kopsiopsis hookeri, is the most uncommon. The only population I’ve ever seen is in Kent Woodlands. It’s in the Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve along the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo trail.
They were discovered by Rosemary U-Ren in April 1994 on one of Wilma Follette’s Marin CNPS hikes. Keying it out was difficult, but Jeff Greenhouse and I eventually accomplished it. The plants have pale yellow bracts and well-exserted white flowers. Some CalPhotos specimens are, in my opinion, mislabelled as K. strobilacea. More recent keys are also not very easily comprehended. Both of our Marin species have about the same size inflorescences, bract shape is varied, and any hairs on the stamens hard to see.

Photo by Vernon Smith





Kopsiopsis strobilacea sCalifornia ground-cone, Kopsiopsis strobilacea

California ground-cone, Kopsiopsis strobilacea, has a wider distribution and has been seen in several places in the greater Mount Tamalpais area. The bracts are purple, as are the barely exserted flowers. The easiest ones to find are along the fire road at the north end of Carson Ridge near where it meets the transverse San Geronimo Ridge.

Photo by Doreen Smith