#176 Ghost Pipes

176 Ghost Pipes (Monotropa uniflora)

22 August

Also known as Indian pipe or corpse plant, is an herbaceous perennial plant native to temperate regions of Asia, North America and northern South America, but with large gaps between areas. The plant is sometimes completely waxy white, but often has black flecks or pale pink coloration. Rare variants may have a deep red color.

It was formerly classified in the family Monotropaceae, but is now included within the Ericaceae. It is of ephemeral occurrence, depending on the right conditions (moisture after a dry period) to appear full grown within a couple of days.

Unlike most plants, it is white and does not contain chlorophyll. Instead of generating energy from sunlight, it is parasitic, and more specifically a mycoheterotroph. 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. It is often associated with beech trees. The complex relationship that allows this plant to grow also makes propagation difficult.

Like most mycoheterotrophic plants, M. uniflora associates with a small range of fungal hosts, all of them members of Russulaceae

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