During yesterday's slug hunt, I kept noticing these peculiar things poking out of the leaf litter everywhere in the forest. I couldn't tell if they were some sort of fungus or an unusual plant. So I e-mailed their picture to Butch Norden of the Maryland DNR, my usual expert on all things wild.
Sure enough, Butch identified the organism as Conopholis americana, a non-photosynthesizing plant commonly called squaw root that is parasitic on the roots of trees, especially oaks and beech. It is native to eastern North America. The only above-ground parts of the plant are the flowers in the picture. I don't know if and what insects pollinate them.
An unusual plant indeed.