We have used heterologous probes to investigate the degree of sequence conservation in the plastid genome of Conopholis americana, a totally achlorophyllous angiosperm which exists as a root parasite on red oaks. Although Conopholis is completely nonphotosynthetic, it retains a plastid genome in which certain regions, including that which contains the ribosomal RNA genes, are highly conserved. Other regions, including those containing the genes for numerous photosynthesis proteins, are either absent or highly divergent. We also find that the 16S and 23S ribosomal genes of the Conopholis plastid are transcribed and processed, implying a potentially functional genetic apparatus. These results are in agreement with findings reported recently for a related root parasite, Epifagus virginiana (dePamphilis and Palmer, 1990). Furthermore, the plastid genome is maintained in high copy number in fruit tissue, whereas mature seeds have an approximately 10-fold lower copy number.