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This curious-looking plant cannot produce energy from the sun, so "borrows" nutrients from the roots of oak trees (and does not repay). That makes it right at home on deeply shaded forest floors in the eastern U.S. It is commonly found where soils are relatively nutrient-rich and deep.
Its appearance is a little bit like a cluster of long pine cones, especially late in the year when it has turned brown. In spite of its name, it has no known cancer-fighting properties.