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

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

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone of Haskell, TX
February 17, 2008 - What region are we in --- Haskell, Tx. (Between Abilene and Wichita Falls)
view the full question and answer

Night-flowering plant that blooms every five years
September 20, 2008 - What plant flowers every five years at night?
view the full question and answer

Is a height of 5 to 8 feet forOenothera biennis (Common evening primrose) normal?
August 30, 2014 - I have identified a version of Evening Primrose Oenothera biennia L. In my yard, Livonia Michigan. These plants range in height from 5-8+ feet. Is this typical? The references I find indicates 3-5 fe...
view the full question and answer

How are full sun, part sun, etc, defined?
April 08, 2014 - Hello, I have a question about sun requirements. Does saying something needs "full sun" mean a particular number of hours? Does it mean 6 or more hours / day? 8 or more? Is there an agreed upon n...
view the full question and answer

Native subarctic plants
March 26, 2008 - I'm doing a project on subarctic things and I have to have subarctic plants in it. I need to know a few and about them. Can you help?
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