The Domain forests are beautiful at every scale – scenic landscapes, massive boulders, majestic trees, tumbling, streams. You name it. Train your eyes to the forest floor, and there are even more beauties to discover. This week I ran across pinesap, Monotropa hypopitys, growing beside a hiking trail.
Pinesap is non-photosynthetic – not a single chloroplast in its little pink body! Instead, this plant derives nutrients from the fungi that it parasitizes. So it’s called a myco-parasite,.
Belying its ephemeral look, pinesap is a perennial. The young flowers hang down, but they turn upward as the fruits develop. Pinesap is closely related to Indian pipe, Monotropa uniflora, another non-photosynthetic perennial that we have here on the Domain. The latter has only one flower per stalk and is usually glostly white in comparison to the slight blush of color displayed by pinesap.
Both plants derive their nutrients from mycorrhizae, the fungi that form associations with tree roots. So ultimately they are feeding off of the trees that form the canopy overhead.