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Tree Root Parasite: Buffalo Nut

Reference Type
University Outreach Publication

Pyrularia pubera is a parasitic shrub found in the understory of old disturbed forest sites in the Appalachians and foothills. It makes a living using other trees, shrubs and herbs to gather water and essential elements. Pyrularia pubera is a root parasite, connecting with other plant roots. The fruit is unique and the most noticed part of the plant, often being brought in from the woods for identification. This publication is the story of the buffalo nut parasite, the cobra of the Appalachians, within the forests of the Southeastern United States. Pyrularia pubera has several common names including buffalo-nut (buffalo nut, buffalonut), oil nut, elk nut, mother-in-law nut, rabbitwood, mountain coconut, crazy nut, and Cherokee salve. The buffalo nut and elk nut come from early colonists who witnessed the woodland bison and the woodland / Eastern elk eating the fruit in winter. The oil nut name is derived from the acrid oil in the fruit. The mother-in-law name was derived from veiled poisoning threats. The Cherokee salve name is derived from the plant's herbal medicine uses by native Americans.

(FOR05-3) November 2005

K.D. Coder
Date Published
School of Forest Resources, University of Georgia
Publisher Location
Athens, GA 30602
Publication Number
Ecology, Identification, Roots, Silvics, Stress & Stressors
Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia
Parasite, Pyrularia, Root parasite, Thionin
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