Sunday, August 2, 2009

Indian Pipes

Down at the end of the Pin Oak Trail I was excited to discover a group of strange pale plants that have emerged from the ground in the last few weeks. They look like they might be mushrooms, but these are actually flowering plants known as Indian Pipes, Monotropa uniflora. Indian Pipes are parasitic on a fungus that is in a mutualistic relationship with a tree. Since they get all of their energy from the fungus (who gets it from the tree) Indian Pipes do not need green chlorophyll to make sugar from sunlight, hence their pale white coloration. If you tilt the flower up slightly, you can see the yellow pollen, proving that these are indeed flowers, and not mushrooms.
For more detailed information on Indian Pipes and their weird and wonderful lifestyle, try these links: