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 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.