This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - Violet, rarely white, delicately fragrant, solitary at end of erect, glandular peduncles. Calyx hairy, bell-shaped, 5-toothed, not half the length of corolla, which is 1 in. or less long, with curved tube spreading into 2 lips, 5-lobed, yellow-bearded within; 4 stamens, in pairs, inserted on tube of corolla; 1 pistil. Stem: About 1 in. long, scaly, often entirely underground; the 1 to 4 brownish scape-like peduncles, on which flowers are borne, from 3 to 8 in. high. Leaves: None. Fruit: An elongated, egg-shaped, 1-celled capsule containing numerous seeds.
Preferred Habitat - Damp woods and thickets.
Flowering Season - April - June.
Distribution - British Possessions and United States from coast to coast, southward to Virginia, and Texas.
A curious, beautiful parasite, fastened on the roots of honest plants from which it draws its nourishment. The ancestors of this species, having deserted the path of rectitude ages ago to live by piracy, gradually lost the use of their leaves, upon which virtuous plants depend as upon a part of their digestive apparatus; they grew smaller and smaller, shrivelled and dried, until now that the one-flowered broom-rape sucks its food, rendered already digestible through another's assimilation, no leaves remain on its brownish scapes. Disuse of any talent in the vegetable kingdom, as in the spiritual, leads to inevitable loss: "Unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away."