Monday, July 27, 2015

Parasitic Plants

Although most plants produce their own energy (sugars) from the sun, we have a variety of plants that parasitise other organisms and have no chlorophyll. Note that this is different from the carnivorous plants I've talked about before, which are getting nutrients from another source but are still producing sugars from the sun.

Many trees and other plants rely on associations with fungi to obtain the nutrients they need, in turn providing the fungi with energy. Some plants are able to tap into this fungal network without contributing anything themselves.

Pinesap is a generally uncommon plant found mostly in pine forests. The only reason this and similar species rise above the ground at all is to flower and produce seed.

The common Indian Pipe is very similar to Pinesap, but can be found in a wide variety of forests, even including wet treed bogs.

All orchids produce tiny seeds which rely on associations with fungi to germinate and grow for at least the early stages. Some species, like Spotted Coralroot, never develop green leaves at all.

Clump of Spotted Coralroot

Spotted Coralroot seedpods

Beechdrops parasitises trees directly, rather than only doing so through fungi like the species above. It is a well-named plant as it is only found in the vicinity of American Beech trees, and attaches directly to their roots.

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