Tuesday, August 11, 2020


Some are yellow, flowering in the spring. Some flower in late summer and are pink or red. They are never green.

I came across several clumps of pink stalks in the deep shade on the hillside.

Pinesap, Monotropa hypopitys, summer edition.

The flowers are white, shading to purplish, with four hairy petals and a long central column.

A closer look.

Pinesaps. Because they live under pines. (And feed off their sap? Indirectly, yes.)

They have no chlorophyll and don't convert sunlight to sugars. They get their nutrients third-hand, from the mushrooms that depend on the trees spreading their greenery far overhead.

Along the pathway I had seen several large mushrooms, broken and nibbled by slugs. These pinesaps are parasitic on the mushrooms. And the mushrooms live in a symbiotic relationship with the evergreens that do the work of reaching out to the sun.

The flowers start out bent over, and straighten up as they mature.

The plant consists of a perennial mass of roots which in season sends up a flower head; the pink stalk is considered to be a part of the flower raceme.

The fruits are round capsules, here pink, like the stems. (Flash used here.)

Ripe capsules. The stigma is yellow in new flowers, turning purple as it ripens.

The seed capsules dry to dark brown; I saw a few, but the photos were too dark to be useful.
One stalk had broken off: I brought it home, all rumpled and half dry, and looked at it under the microscope:

Dying flowers, one without petals, showing its ovary and stigma, and the stamens, already brown and dry. And hairy.

Two ripe seed capsules.


Algunas de estas plantas son amarillas, y florecen en la primavera. Las que florecen más tarde, en el verano, son color de rosa. Nunca son verdes.

Encontré varios grupos, siempre en sombra, siempre cerca de unos hongos blancos, y siempre bajo pinos.

Las plantas no contienen clorofila, y no producen sus propias sustancias nutritivas. Son parásitos, que toman su alimento de los hongos, los cuales son simbiontes que dependen de los árboles que convierten la luz del sol a energía.

Se llaman, en inglés, Pinesap, o sea savia de pinos y son la única especie en su género. Salen de una masa perenne de raices, produciendo los tallos con flores en la temporada, desapareciendo bajo la tierra hasta el próximo año.

Los frutos son unas cápsulas redondas, rojizas, que, secas, se vuelven color de café oscuro.

Una rama estaba tirada en el suelo, rota. Me la traje a casa y la miré bajo el microscopio.

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