View all of the titles in the
by Stan Tekiela
October 23, 2017
There is nothing better than spending a late summer morning walking the woods in search of whatever interesting you can find. Lately I've been out wondering the thick cool forests looking for some mushrooms. I've been successful at find the mushrooms that I am seeking but I also find other interesting things.
While walking I enjoy seeing so many familiar natural objects such as squirrel nests, various mushrooms, migrating birds, colorful wildflowers, all of which I consider to be old friends and it's always great to see old friends.
One of the more interesting things in the woods at this time of year is the Indian Pipe (Monotropa unifora). Also called the Ghost Plant or Corpse Plant, the Indian Pipe is a very unusual plant that grows late in the summer season and is found on the forest floor. Standing only 4-9 inches tall, you might over look this unique plant. But what sets the Indian Pipe apart from all other plants in the forest, it is pure white and sometimes pink.
You see, the Indian Pipe is a plant without chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the part of a plant that gives it the green color. It is also the part that takes in the sunlight and produces food for the plant. Without the green chlorophyll all plant would be white. It doesn't make food for itself like other plants but instead gets its nourishment through a mutually beneficial fungal and tree root (mycorrhizal) relationship. Ultimately it gets nourishment from the trees. This is a very complex relationship that is still not completely understood.
Like all mycoheterotropic plants it has a specific relationship with a fungal host. In this case it is the Russulaceae group of mushrooms often just referred to as the Russula mushrooms. These are often bright red or yellow mushrooms that are so common at this time of year.
It might be that these plants have evolved away from standard chlorophyll and utilizing sunlight to make food because they grow deep in the forest under the deep dark shadow of the tall trees where sunlight is unable to penetrate.
It is a perennial plant, native to temperate regions of North America, and other northern regions across the planet. Just like other plants the Indian Pipe has a single flower on each stem. The species name, uniflora, means "one flower" describing its one bell flower per stem. After pollination the hanging flower turns upwards. The genus name Monotropa means "one turn" and describes the single turn the flower makes. After the flower turns upward the plant starts to turn black as the seeds start to mature.
It often grows in small clumps but can be seen as a single stem. The stem is waxy with tiny scale-like leaves that alternate on the stem. Of course there is no reason to have large leaves if you don't have to collect sunlight to make food.
In nature there is never any absolutes. There is always an exception to the rule. The Indian Pipe is one of those rule breakers and that's one of the reason why I enjoy seeing this plant. Also, I think the large clusters of Indian Pipe are very attractive and make good photographic subjects. Until next time...
Stan Tekiela is an author / naturalist and wildlife photographer who travels the U.S. to study and photograph wildlife. He can be followed on www.facebook.com and twitter.com. He can be contacted via his web page at www.naturesmart.com.
The nationally syndicated NatureSmart Column appears in over 25 cities spanning 7 states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. It is a bi-weekly column circulated to over 750,000 readers.
Every December near the holidays, I take a trip to Wyoming to film and study Bighorn Sheep (Ovis Canadensis). It’s always a fun adventure and this year was no different. Bighorns are a member of the mountain sheep group consisting of three species, the Bighorn Sheep, Dall Sheep and Stone...
Pieball White-tailed Deer
Every now and then nature comes up with a rare or unusual condition. I ran across one of these recently and had a chance to spend some time photographing it. A young White-tailed deer with a genic condition called piebald. Piebaldism is a rare genetic abnormality which can express in a wide...
Off in the distances I can hear the familiar scream-like call of a Blue Jay. The sound pierces through the yellow and orange autumn maple leaves on a crisp blue sky day. I sit enjoying the sunshine, calm winds and the smell of autumn in the air.
Again, I hear the Blue Jay cry, this time...
It's funny how we hang on to traditions-- especially ancient traditions. Take Halloween for example. Started nearly 3,500 years ago by the Celtic people near Britain, it was a special day set aside to mark the end of the harvest and acknowledge the beginning of the long dark and cold...
When he's out in the field, Stan relies on his Vortex Razor binoculars and Vortex Razor spotting scope to help find the subjects for his award winning wildlife photography.
Now, contact Stan for your special code to get a 10% discount off, along with free shipping, when you purchase any of the Vortex line of binoculars or spotting scopes.
For thirty years, professional wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela has counted on Hunt’s Photo and Video to provide him with professional photography equipment.
From tripods to camera bodies and lenses, Hunt’s has been Stan’s place for everything that he needs. Personal service and prompt shipping means Stan can count on Hunt’s to support his professional wildlife photography career.
Professional Wildlife Photographer Stan Tekiela always uses Feeder Fresh in his seed feeders to help keep the feeders and food dry, clean and mold free.
He also uses Feeder Fresh Nectar Defender in all of his hummingbird feeders. It safely keeps nectar fresh longer.