Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Wild Native Hybrids and Cultivars?
June 14, 2010 - It is my understanding that hybrids can occur with or without human intervention whereas cultivars always involve human intervention. Strictly speaking does this mean native wildflowers can never be ...
view the full question and answer

Mountain laurel with fasciation
July 24, 2014 - My Texas Mountain Laurel bush has developed several "crested branches." What causes this, is it harmful & how do I get rid of them??? Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Endemic plants for the Edwards Plateau
March 23, 2008 - Thanks so much for the info. it will be very helpful with the boys and we really stress "Leave No Trace Behind". The pictures will be enough. Thanks again!!
view the full question and answer

Water Use Versus Soil Moisture
October 14, 2014 - In the Native Plant Database, under Growing Conditions what is the difference between water use and soil moisture? Sometimes they seem contradictory.
view the full question and answer

What do cedars do to cause cedar fever?
February 20, 2009 - What do the native cedars in Fate Tx do in the winter that causes allergies to get really bad that they have named it cedar fever
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.