Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nature Notes: Pinesap

I find parasitic plants totally fascinating.  Parasitic plants don't have any chlorophyll, and instead of getting energy from the sun like most plants, some of them have their roots connected to fungi, (often mycorrhizal fungi) that may be associated with the roots of other plants.  So the energy and nutrients are shuttled from one plant (like a tree) through the fungi and then into the parasitic plant.  Imagine all the complex interactions that are happening below ground that we don't see!

I've found two common parasitic plants on my hikes:

Pinesap (Monotropa hypopithys) is a fantastic reddish hue in the fall, and there is a large patch of it that I like to visit on the Coosa trail on the side of Blood Mountain.

Pinesap is related to Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), which is also found in our area.  Indian pipe is usually white and has only one flower per stalk, while pinesap has a few flowers. 

Indian pipe

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