My previous post (Image #258 – Indian Pipe Emerging) prompted a good friend to send me an email that said, in part,
Your image reminded me of a crocus, while some of the other images on the net looked so much like fungi I could hardly believe they were plants. What a wonderful world this is, filled with so many remarkable and beautiful things for those who have eyes to see. Getting the big picture is important, but you will never get the big picture if you don’t also study the small things.
Indian Pipes can really teach us a thing or two about the small stuff and also the well worn adage, you can’t judge a book by its cover. For example, it is easy to look at these remarkable structures and assume they are a variation of a mushroom but they are, in fact, a plant. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture classifies it as a wildflower
and their website provides pictures of the actual bloom, something I have set my sights on obtaining. I was aware that the Indian Pipe has a source of nectar. The honey bee in the upper right corner of the collage keyed me in to that fact last summer. The bee, by the way, is making a return appearance here in Alice’s Wanderland. He was originally featured in Image #52.
Indian Pipes are sometimes called “Ghost” or “Corpse” plant because of its remarkable lack of color or, more accurately, chlorophyll. According to Wikipedia:
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. It is often associated with beech trees. The complex relationship that allows this plant to grow also makes propagation difficult.
The plants are rare which makes our growth here on Fawn Hill a true bonanza. They are popping up all over the hill and their presence makes me re-think efforts to clear certain areas of overgrowth and debris. One person’s debris is a plant’s lifeline. We’ll do all that we can to preserve these lovely creatures. What a wonderful world indeed. ❧