En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - August 23, 2008

From: Rapid City, SD
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Weird-looking rootless plant, perhaps a fungus
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

While out it my backyard (i.e. the Black Hills of South Dakota), I spotted a weird-looking rootless plant (I think it may be a fungus) growing beneath the Ponderosa Pines. It was the only one in the area and the only one I've ever seen. Anyway, further identifying features: ~18 inch stem -- bright pink and sticky Inverted yellow bell-like "flowers" at the top with not many "leaves" to speak of I know fungi aren't plants, but do you have any idea what it is?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants believes you saw Pterospora andromedea (woodland pinedrops). Here is more information from Michigan Natural Features Inventory and here are some more photos. It is a very interesting plant since it has no chlorophyll and can't make its own food. it forms an association with a mychorrihizal fungus which is then associated with tree roots, generally pine tree roots. Botanists consider it to be saprophytic (living on dead organic matter), instead of parasitic on the pine tree or, alternatively, parasitic on the fungus. There is also the thought that this is a beneficial relationship with the mychorrhizal fungus in which the fungus increases the supply of nutrients to the plant by increasing the surface area by which it can absorb decaying matter. The fungus may benefit by using some of the carbohydrates that the plant produces. Such plants that associate with mychorrhizal fungi are called mycotrophic plants.

Here are some more flowers that resemble fungus.

Here are mycotrophic orchids that occur in South Dakota.

Corallorhiza odontorhiza (autumn coralroot)

Corallorhiza maculata (summer coralroot)

Corallorhiza striata (hooded coralroot)

Corallorhiza trifida (yellow coralroot)

Corallorhiza wisteriana (spring coralroot)


Pterospora andromedea

Pterospora andromedea

Pterospora andromedea

Pterospora andromedea

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Identity of a plant at UGA Trial Gardens 15 years ago
August 14, 2012 - Looking to identify a plant that was in UGA trial gardens about 15 years ago, large plant with purple flowers, fuzzy leaves like a lambs ear. Thought it started with a Thiobana or something like that
view the full question and answer

Identification of plant from Tennessee
June 06, 2011 - I was trying to find the identity of a plant my Grandmother grew around her house in West Tennessee. It was a nonflowering plant, about 12-24 in tall, had thornless leaves similar in shape to holly l...
view the full question and answer

Identification of an Australian tree.
November 29, 2007 - i have a tree i cant seem to find any info on, the tree has large almost heart shaped leaves with pinkish veins running through them, its not shiney anywhere, sort of a mat finish,the edges of the lea...
view the full question and answer

Who was Salvia clevelandii named for?
May 12, 2009 - Where does the term "clevelandii (as in the Salvia I recently saw for the first time) originate?
view the full question and answer

Identification of shrub in South Carolina
December 12, 2011 - First, I'm in Iraq but trying to write a book and have a question on a plant that grows in South Carolina. All I can do is describe it. The bush is normally green but turns red, has large leaves, kin...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center