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

Inducing flowering out of season
June 22, 2007 - We are currently conducting research on insect transmission of a plant virus to flowering weeds. Is there a process to trick biennials into flowering in their first year?
view the full question and answer

Texas native plants that absorb air-borne pollutants
December 15, 2008 - hello mr. and mrs. smarty, I'm looking for native Texas plants that absorb pollutants and trap air-borne particulates. I found a list (below), but don't think they're native. Could you give me ad...
view the full question and answer

Plants killed by frost
October 31, 2007 - In a frost why do flowers etc. die where grass will not die?
view the full question and answer

Consequences of overwatering plants
February 05, 2010 - Explain how an error on the high side when watering would affect soil fertility management, IPM efforts?
view the full question and answer

Fragrant Texas wildflowers from Waco TX
July 28, 2013 - Hi, I'm interested in looking at any Texas Wildflowers which have attractive aromas which I can distill essential oil from. Any ideas? Thanks
view the full question and answer

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