En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Weird-looking rootless plant, perhaps a fungus

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

Plant identification
October 12, 2010 - Have two clippings from Monday the 11th that were growing out of small stumps. Tried to send you pictures of both cuttings of leaves. If you could tell me what you think they are, I would be thankful...
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification from Cold Lake AB
August 03, 2012 - How can I send a picture for you to help me identify a plant that grows in my garden that no one can seem to identify? I have taken a picture of it but can't seem to be able to attach it to this que...
view the full question and answer

Bulbs named exotica
September 01, 2008 - When I purchased some seed from a catalog I received some free bulbs called exotica which I planted.They have long green stems. I don't know what they are or what to do with them. Can I plant them ou...
view the full question and answer

Identification of bush with red berries
March 11, 2013 - bush? grows along fence lines in rural areas; sheds foliage in fall; berries appear; colors vary from red to orange, depending on soil?
view the full question and answer

Identifying Rhus lanceolata in Texas
April 28, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I think I've identified two small trees, 4 to 5 feet high at the back fence line and two in the front yard flower beds as prairie flameleaf sumac (or at least some kind of s...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center