Monday, July 18, 2011

Indian Pipe vs Pinesap



This is in response to Janet's post of June 27th. These are photos of two related species, Monotropa uniflora ("Indian Pipe") and Monotropa hypopithys ("pinesap"). These photos are from Marble Hill Conservation Area in Stow, MA in 2009. It is unusual to find the less common pinesap. I have found some previously in Estabrook Woods in Concord. I had found two locations in Marble Hill where they grew. I looked for them last summer, but it was too dry. Both species are parasitic, so they grow without chlorophyll and can live in low light. I'll be looking for them again in this season to reemerge.

8 comments:

  1. Beautiful and informative. Thanks.

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  2. I agree! I've seen plenty of the Indian pipes, but will now be on the lookout for pinesaps. That first photo, Lars, makes me wonder if pinesaps are prone to fairy ring formations, my favorite mycological phenomenon.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairy_ring

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  3. Susan, that is an interesting observation, because these are not fungi. They are parasitic herbaceous plants, and in the heath family, that which includes blueberries, cranberries,azaleas and various heathers (oddly enough).

    Ring formation occurs in some garden perennials, such as creeping phlox. Maybe the cause is similar whether fungi or herbaceous plants: a tendency to spread out from a nutrient depleted area.

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  4. Enlightening as always, Janet. My thought now is that pinesaps might make a good horror film subject - something along the line of "The Attack of the Parasitic Herbaceous Plants." Not quite The Little Shop of Horrors, but ...

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  5. Funny you should mention Little Shop of Horrors. That film came to mind when I reviewed my swamp azalea photos (posted 7/3/11). The look of the buds gave me the willies (as did Seymour's thirsty plant) -- I almost entitled the post "Audrey III" but worried no one would get the reference. Clearly you would have!

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  6. Actually, these days the saprophytic plants like Indian pipe, pinesap, and pinedrops are placed in their own family, Monotropaceae, which is in the same order (Ericales) as the heath family (Ericaceae). Although I hadn't really noticed it before, it would make some sense for these plants to form fairy rings, because they are invariably connected to fungi underground. It's a sort of mycorrhizal association that (I believe) is unique to this family, in which the plant obtains sugars from other plants through the fungus.

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  7. Is that true? I read exactly the opposite: formerly in Monotropaceae but now lumped in Ericaceae.

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  8. Hmm... I guess they moved it back again! It also used to be in the Pyrolaceae. Hard to keep track of these things.

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