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
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?
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
Do yuccas die after blooming? October 11, 2010 - We have a blue yucca which was planted 2 years ago and is just now blooming with a tower of white flowers. Will the entire plant die after blooming as the century plants do? If so, is there a way to s... view the full question and answer
20 years to bloom May 02, 2007 - My girlfriend and i have come up with an interesting question, we were wondering if there is a plant in existance that takes over 20 years to bloom, and how many different kinds (if any) there are? We... view the full question and answer
Blooms as far as the eye can see March 06, 2008 - Why are some wildflowers capable of putting on spectacular sweeps of blooms "for as far as the eye can see" such as Indian paintbrush at Vail Pass in Colorado, or bluebonnets in the Texas hill count... view the full question and answer
Herbarium locations for Bifora americana May 12, 2007 - Dr Hampton:
I am trying to find specific locations of populations of Bifora americana (prairie bishop). Apparently, many collections of this species have been made in the Dallas-Ft Worth area as we... view the full question and answer
Plant cloning or genetic engineering February 23, 2012 - Can you take one genome (strain) and take a clean cut and put onto another plant another strain? view the full question and answer