Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ghost Plant: Monotropa Uniflora

Monotropa uniflora pictures, courtesy Mike Hall of Conway, AR
(Mike discovered this oddity on a recent hike. If you discover any AR botanical oddities that you would like to post to this site, please let me know.)

Monotropa uniflora, also known as the Ghost Plant, Indian Pipe, or Corpse Plant is a herbaceous perennial plant, formerly classified in the family Monotropaceae, but now included within the Ericaceae. It is native to temperate regions of Asia, North America and northern South America, but with large gaps between areas.[1] It is generally scarce or rare in occurrence.
Unlike most plants, it is white and does not contain
chlorophyll. Instead of generating energy from sunlight, it is parasitic, more specifically a myco-heterotroph. Its hosts are certain fungi that are mycorrhizal with trees, meaning it ultimately gets its energy from photosynthetic trees. Since it is not dependent on sunlight to grow, it can grow in very dark environments as in the understory of dense forest. The complex relationship that allows this plant to grow also makes propagation difficult. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monotropa_uniflora
This month's fungus is not a fungus at all, but is often brought in to forays and by students thinking it must be a fungus because it's white and doesn't have any chlorophyll. But it's really a flowering plant-- in the blueberry family! This is one of about 3000 species of non-photosynthetic (i.e. heterotrophic) flowering plants. http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/oct2002.html

For another picture see: