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Myco-heterotrophs: "Pine Sap" vs "Ghost Pipe"

Recently we posted about an encounter with a myco-heterotroph that we thought was "Pine Sap" but as it turns out it was its sister plant the "Ghost Pipe" !

Left: "Pine Sap" or Monotropa hypopitys Right: "Ghost Pipe" Monotropa uniflora

Although both are rare, we've encountered multiple specimens of each throughout the years of our daily forays, but had never seen "Ghost Pipe" or Monotropa uniflora in such pink hues as these specimens in Florida (see photo below).

"Ghost Pipe" or Monotropa uniflora Jacksonville, FL 01/06/22

Thanks to one of our followers, we looked closer to see these specimens had only one bloom on each stem, hence the latin name "uniflora." Typically, "ghost pipe" has a ghostly white to translucent hue. In our recent research we found out some variants of "Ghost Pipe" sport a pink hue while the most rare variants have a dark red hue as seen here:

We found these mature red specimens of "Ghost Pipe" at Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina last November. Though these start out as drooping with a flower, as they mature they stand upright, sporting a fruit that holds their seeds.

Both these plants are fascinating in that they're considered myco-heterotrophs. Instead of having chlorophyll to use photosynthesis, these plants are parasitic on the mycelium of fungi. They're able to tap into this fungal network to gain nutrients to survive and thrive. Because of this characteristic, a lot of times they will be in very shady parts of the forest, as they don't need sunlight to survive. Both of these species under the Monotropa genus are rare, but tend to show up after a hard rain at the end of a long dry spell in forests. Monotropa uniflora is known to have an association with Beech trees while Monotropa hypopitys tend to accompany pine trees, hence the common name "Pine Sap."

Here's a gallery of the two Monotropa species we've encountered... can you spot the differences?

Again, thanks to our Instagram follower for the astute observation about this necessary correction. Science and nomenclature is all about recognizing, researching, and evolving!



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