Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Ghost Volunteer.

I know this as Indian Pipes.  It’s also known as Ghost Plant.  It showed up in our flower bed this past week, which was a big surprise to me.  I’ve only seen these in the forest, and only rarely. For a big stand, see the last photo taken on Vancouver Island in British Columbia last year.

Indian Pipes

Otherwise known as a Ghost Plant

The plant’s scientific name is Monotropa uniflora.   It might be mistaken for a fungus because it’s white and grows close to the ground.  It’s white because it doesn't have any chlorophyll, but it is not a fungus at all!  It's really a flowering plant-- in the blueberry family! The flower is pointed directly down at the ground, making it impossible to photograph the inside without breaking the plant.  June and I were able to check out a dying flower earlier and sure enough, it is a beautiful flower with orange Stamen inside.  This is one of about 3000 species of non-photosynthetic (i.e. heterotrophic) flowering plants. 

How does this plant survive without chlorophyll??

Like all monotropes it is parasitic on fungi! These fungi feed off photosynthetic trees, and thus the energy ultimately comes from photosynthesis of the tree, passing through the fungus on the way to the Monotropa.  So, this one is getting energy from the Dogwood it is growing under courtesy of some fungus in the mulch.

Indian Pipes on Vancouver Island, BC
You never know what you'll find if you look around!

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