Got Chlorophyll?

Indian PipesIn school you learn:  plants need sun, water, soil, and air.  Plants have chlorophyll and photosynthesize… that is, make their own food.  You have to learn that, because it will be on the standardized science tests.  And you should learn that, because it’s mostly true.  It’s not true of all plants, though, and they never seem to teach you about the exceptions – the weird and wonderful plants that break the rules…

Like the ones that lack chlorophyll and don’t make their own food…   Indian Pipes, for example.

They grow from the forest floor and have an intriguing relationship with fungus and the tree roots from which they get their nutrients.  They are flowering plants and they do produce seeds.  I took the above flower picture in July and the following seed picture last September.

Indian Pipe Seedheads

In early August, Nina wrote about Indian Pipes.  You should click on over there to read what she wrote, and check her links to more information on this plant.  Very interesting…

DodderDodder is another flower lacking chlorophyll and it’s a favorite of mine.  Orange, vine-like stems wrap around plants that do have chlorophyll.  Tiny suckers sip nutrients directly from the stems of the host plants.  The structures are technically called “haustoria” – a special kind of root structure that apparently can penetrate the tissue of the host without penetrating cell membranes…  Fungi have this type of structure, too.

One of the first photos I took with my Canon Rebel XT was a dodder vine wrapped tightly around a burgandy-colored stem.  Don’t the colors look good together?


Beech DropsBeech Drops is another plant that sports haustoria.  As you may have already guessed, the host for this parasitic plant is the beech tree.  I was very disappointed with this photograph.  I’ll have to try again next time I’m out.

Or, better yet:  let me issue this challenge:  Let’s see which of us can post the best Beech Drops photo before the end of the blooming season which is August through October.  Just look under beech trees for a brownish-pinkish flower on a plant that has no leaves and that is so inconspicuous you might just think it’s something dried up and left over from last year!

Why are you still reading this?  Grab your camera and get to the woods!

7 thoughts on “Got Chlorophyll?

  1. OMG Jen, I can’t believe I’ve never heard of Beech drops. Where the heck have I been. And I’ve been hanging around beeches, too. Do you only find these under beeches in the woodland setting, or can you find them in the landscape setting, too?

  2. Chlorophyll (looking at the word here) would be a good one for the Hangman game (word guessing). You hardly ever see this word in writing, unless you’re a botanist or such.

    I was going to go down to the San Diego “Beech” to get some pictures of beech drops, but it’s too crowded on this hot holiday weekend. Sorry.

  3. No fair – we don’t have beech drops here as far as I know! Are they in the orchid family? They look somewhat similar to the Coralroots we have here (and which I have a difficult time photographing due to their coloring and shape!).

    I love all of the saprophytic & parasitic flowers. Around here, in the Indian Pipe family, we have Snowplant and Pinedrops, which are some of my favorite early- and late-season flowers, respectively.

    Great photos – I especially like the Indian Pipe.

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