Monday, June 20, 2016

Beggars and Thieves

I took another trip to Gold River and back, this time with my daughter and her husband. We were in no hurry; we drove down inviting side roads, dawdled along trails with interesting names, crawled over rocks and poked through the duff under evergreens.

Three connected lakes look, on Google maps, more like a fat river, rarely more than a couple of kilometres wide. They end up just out of Campbell River (the town, but also the river) coming from the west via Campbell Lake, then the southwest via Upper Campbell Lake. At the southwest tip of the Upper Campbell, it joins Buttle Lake, coming up from the south, making a total of about 70 kms or 45 miles in all. The highway to Gold River follows the first two lakes, crosses the narrows between the Upper Campbell and Buttle, and hies away to the west, following other rivers.

On our way home, the road down the shore of Buttle Lake called to us, and we had to follow. 3 kilometres down the road, there was a trailhead sign: Lupin Falls. In the parking lot, an informational poster sent me off into the bush, poking about in the dark.

"Beggars and Thieves" A faded, stained, damaged poster. I have repaired as much as I could, to make it readable.

Text of the poster: Beggars and Thieves.
Growing in shade and darkness are some most unusual plants! Lacking the green pigment clorophyll used for manufacturing food from sunlight, they must scrounge or steal.
Some, as parasites, steal food directly from a host plant upon which they are completely dependent. Others, as saprophytes, beg for left-overs (dead organic matter) using special fungi associated with their roots. Some even obtain food from these fungi who in turn have received it from a nearby tree!
Please "Let Them Be" for with your help, these "beggars and thieves" will continue to be an important part of this park's heritage.

The plants shown are Ground Cone, Spotted Coral Root, Western Coral Root, Indian Pipe, Pinesap, Pinedrops, Gnome Plant, and Candy Stick.

Of these, I had seen the Indian Pipe and maybe the Ground Cone. So while the others stuck to the trails, I searched the forest floor. And found Pinesaps!

Pinesaps, Monotropa hypopitys.

Another pair, nearby.

Clorophyll is the pigment that makes leaves green, and allows plants to get energy from sunlight. (And by extension, allows us to get energy from those plants. We're in the same boat as these pinesaps; no clorophyll of our own.) Pinesaps have no green pigment. The whole plant is in shades from a yellowish white to pink or red.

The plant is an epiparasite. A parasite feeds off another organism. An epiparasite gets its food from another parasite, one step removed from the original producer of nutrients. Pinesap roots tap into a fungus which attaches itself to the roots of a tree. The tree, far above, converts sunlight into sugars, while down in the earth, the fungus spreads itself through the soil, collecting water and nutrients for the tree. The pinesap takes the sugar and the nutrients, and does nothing but look pretty. But that's enough. isn't it?

The young flowers start off hanging downward, then gradually turn upright as they mature. The plants in the second photo, then, are older than the ones above.

A closer look at some of the flowers. The inner surface of the petals is very hairy.

Zooming in.

I didn't see any lupins, falling or not. Probably because they like the sunshine and I was prowling in deep, deep shade.

GPS coordiantes: 49.82082, -125.60267

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