Vancouver groundcone (Boschniakia hookeri) is an unusual saprophyte that grows in coastal British Columbia. It is found in association with salal (Gaultheria shallon) and kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) which it is parasitic on. Like the common name suggests, this parasitic herb looks like a weird cone growing out of the ground. Vancouver groundcone comes in a range of colours from pale yellow through to rich purple. Vancouver groundcone can grow to a height of up to 12 cm. As the plant matures, small flowers become visible between the bracts on the stem.
First Nations Connections
But is it edible? Apparently, the spherical root bases of the groundcone are edible and are a traditional food of the Kwakwaka’wakw and Nuu-chah-nuulth First Nations although not in any quantity. I’ll admit that I haven’t tried eating them. First Nations also consider the groundcone to be a good luck charm. In addition, the alternate common name for the groundcone, poque, may be related to the Kwakwaka’wakw name for the plant – p’ukw’es.
Where Can You Find Vancouver Groundcone?
Vancouver groundcone is frequent on Vancouver Island and I’ve found it in several provincial parks. This groundcone was conveniently located next to a trail at Spider Lake Provincial Park but they are easy to find if you’re looking for them. The most common visual cue is the presence of salal, or less commonly, kinnikinnick, which are both host plants. Once you find one plant, look for others nearby. It is always a pleasure to reacquaint myself with this local oddball.
Keep an eye out for the the often overlooked and under-appreciated Vancouver groundcone while exploring Vancouver Island’s provincial parks! Take a closer look when you find one and maybe your luck will improve.