Plants without photosynthesis

IMG_1171Here’s something truly amazing that sprouted recently in my backyard. They are plants called Indian pipe, or ghost plant, or corpse plant. The Latin name is Monotropa uniflora. It has no green to it because it has no chlorophyll! No chlorophyll means no photosynthesis. This plant is a parasite. It derives its energy from a fungus which in turn get’s its energy from a tree (probably the American beech in my backyard). Here’s a great little article about M. uniflora.

IMG_1176

Think about it: an elegant, but ghostly white little flower living out it’s life cycle like so many other flowering plants. It’s pollinated by bees, produces seeds, germinates and grows in the rich forest soil, but it makes it’s living so very differently from other plants.

 Here’s a scholarly article whose abstract is worth a quick read. It challenges the idea that parasites are “all bad.” A quick quotation: “Parasites and pathogens act as ecosystem engineers, alter energy budgets and nutrient cycling, and influence biodiversity.” And another article:”parasites may be the thread that holds the structure of ecological communities together.”
 
And if you’re looking for your math fix: quantitative parasitology is a thing, yo.
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