Last summer, after a wet spell, I posted some pictures of colorful specimens of toadstools and other fungi, sprouting all over the local woods.
I also included this shot, of a strange non-fungus, “monotropa uniflora,” called by various names like “Ghost Plant,” “Indian Pipe,” or “Ghost Pipe.”
I would not care to hear whatever dark and sinister tune might whisper out of these pale ghost pipes.
From a distance, it has a pale, porcelain prettiness, and the stems are a rather nice pink, but on closer inspection, the overall effect is of an unhealthy, repellent fleshiness. But perhaps I’m just projecting, because of its vampirish lifestyle.
A lot of fascinating info on Tom Volk’s Fungus Web Page.
My first surprise, was to find out that it’s a herbaceous perennial plant, and somehow related to much more cheerful plants:
cranberries, rhododendrons, azaleas, and blueberries!
Seems like it would be a strained relationship.
That pale, creepy Uncle Fester we never discuss when the young blueberries are around.
Not only did we find it growing amidst the various fungi, but like them, it lacks chlorophyll.
A parasitic existence, living on fungi.
It’s host fungi, in turn, have a symbiotic relationship to trees, often beeches.
Professor Volk mentions a “one-way flow of carbohydrates,” which immediately brought an image of me in a pasta restaurant.
Given its somewhat creepy appearance, and parasitic nature, its not surprising to find another, creepy, nickname,
I’ve only seen it a couple of times in my life, and was surprised to find it again, embedded in greenish glass, in the Corning Glass Museum!
This is an amazing glass creation by Paul Stankard, “Cloistered Tri-Level Botanical with Indian Pipe Flower and Spirits”
I’m sorry it’s not a better picture, I photographed it inside a glass case, which could have used a wash. We know which visitors are making things smeary, we can identify their fingerprints.
But if you look closely, you can make out the spirits on the underside of this strange plant.
Here’s a link to a better image, on the museum website
Apparently Native Americans discovered a number of medicinal uses, including a root tea, used as a sedative and soporific.
I don’t experiment with such things, and in this case, doesn’t it look like, as a sleeping aid, it might just work a bit too well?