THE GHOST PLANT - Monotropa uniflora
With the Halloween holiday just days away, this week's 'Freak of the Week' is the appropriately named Ghost plant - Monotropa uniflora. Although it looks as though it grows on the bones of the un-dead (hence it's other common name of 'Corpse plant'), it is in fact a herbaceous perennial plant from within the well known Ericaceae family.
However, there is a good reason behind this colouration and that is because, unlike almost all other plants, it cells do not contain the chlorophyll pigment. So how on earth does does it manage to get the energy required for growth?
Like many forms of fungi (which it is not related to), the ghost plant is parasitic, which means it has evolved a way to gets its energy from photosynthetic trees. But it doesn't feed from then directly. It has managed to find away to feed from the symbiotic subterranean fungi which have a mutual beneficial relationship with the tree roots, usually beech trees.
It grows in shady woods with rich soil and decaying plant matter, often found near dead stumps.
Since it is not dependent on sunlight to grow, it can grow in very dark environments such as the under-story of dense woodland.
The insipid stems will grow to a height of around 12 inches, and are clothed with small scale-leaves.
As its scientific name suggests, the stems bear only a single flower, which are produced from early summer to early autumn.
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