En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Mycotrophic plants that develop underground for years in Alabama

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

Tuesday - January 10, 2006

From: Jacksonville, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: General Botany
Title: Mycotrophic plants that develop underground for years in Alabama
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I recently heard someone say that there was a plant that took seven years to grow. They stated that the seed is in the ground but it begins the growth under ground but does not come to the surface for seven years. Can you help?

ANSWER:

We don't know of any specific plant that has a seven year root development period before sprouting, though we wouldn't discount the possibility. Because most plants require sunlight to grow much beyond the germination and sprouting stages of development, the most likely candidates to fit the description would be plants that do not produce chlorophyll. There are basically three types of such plants; parasites, which "steal" energy directly from other plants; mycoheterophytes (also called epiparasites), which receive nutrition from other plants indirectly through a fungal intermediary; and mycotrophic (also called saprophytic) plants which also have a symbiotic relationship with fungi (mycorrhyzae) but do not parasitize other plants. You can read a nice article on mycotrophic plants that includes some of the epiparasites as well.

Some well-known examples of mycotrophic plants that might develop roots for many years before emerging from the soil to flower and produce seeds are some of the terrestrial orchids such as those in the genera Corallorrhiza and Hexalectris. Spiked Crested Coralroot (Hexalectris spicata) and Autumn Coralroot (Corallorrhiza odontorhiza) are ones that occur in Alabama.
 

More General Botany Questions

Smarty Plants on cell elongation
June 09, 2005 - Why do plants grow faster in the dark?
view the full question and answer

Why do sunflowers turn towards the sun?
February 27, 2006 - Why do sunflowers turn towards the sun?
view the full question and answer

Are Cuscuta spp. (dodders) in Cuscutaceae or Convolvulaceae?
March 13, 2012 - USDA plant database has the species Cuscuta in the CUSCUTACEAE FAMILY; you have it in the CONVOLVULACEAE FAMILY. Which is correct? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Is Phlox divaricata evergreen?
June 27, 2011 - Is Phlox divaricata evergreen?
view the full question and answer

What is a Demaree Rose?
August 14, 2013 - Have been told the Apache Plume is the Wild Rose after which the Wild Rose Pass north of Ft. Davis was named. However, other research indicates it was the Demaree Rose. What is true and are there ...
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