Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ghostly Ménage à Trois

ghost plant
Ghost Plant Monotropa uniflora

Ghosts! White, translucent, fleshy, and covered with scales nodding in a spooky little group under a tree. It has been 15 years since I saw my last apparition of these plants. What a surprise and rare delight to find these haunting the Garden Brae. Who knows when I will get a chance to write about them again?

What I learned from a Ménage à trois with Ghost Plants :

Forest trees depend on a symbiotic relationship with the fungi at their feet
  • Forest trees are like a sugar daddy to fungus by providing carbohydrates to the fungus
  • Fungus in turn give a little TLC to trees in the form of N-P-K and H2O by providing nutrients and water to the trees
Enter in to this happy relationship the usurping pretty little Monotropa uniflora
  • Monotropa uniflora insinuates itself into the intimate relationship of the forest tree and fungus
  • The ghostly little flower sneaks sugar from the tree intended for the fungus and filches nutrients and water from the fungus intended for the tree.
close up of ghost plant

Current belief is that Monotropa uniflora is a selfish partner and gives nothing in return to tree or fungus in this relationship - that is what makes Monotropa a parasitic plant.

Whereas, it was once thought that Monotropa was saprophytic which fed on dead or decaying vegetation. (Is there a test at the end of this, or what?)

What is the relationship of the tree and fungus you ask?
- Why, it is a mutualistic symbiotic association, ofcourse! - because both tree and fungus gain mutual benefit from each other.

This fascinating plant is the subject of intense study lately to discover its potent hormonal system that sucks sugars away from fungus for its own successful survival.

* * *
Genius Loci thought: Is my relationship to my garden parasitic, saprophytic or mutualistic?


daizyblue said...

so beautiful and the resolution is crisp...i was wondering if you know much about the rare lily i have in my garden?...very beautiful, but sensitive to different times of the day...when she blooms, however, no other garden delight can compare...i also have this sweet blue flower that is in its infant stages...i can already see hints of true poetry in the petals...
let me know what you think...
~montana cowgirl

West Coast Island Gardener said...

I think your words are right on Montana cowgirl!

AND those rare, blossoming beauties are a result of the special light you shine on them. Lily and Sweet Blue will bloom into perennial delights like the parent plants. Feel free to transplant them to my garden anytime.

Anonymous said...

Don't know what fortunate click landed me here BUT... W O W

I LOVE your photographs. Thought I would let you know that I clicked on each one to see them larger. What a pleasure to look at slugs, flowers, totem poles, ocean city and your pretty dog. Great photos. Thank you

Cheery bye

Kanak Hagjer said...

Amazing, these 'apparition of plants' in your garden...and your pics are always so beautiful!

Love your header. The whole blog look is stunning! Thank you for visiting my blog and for your lovely comment. Cheers!

West Coast Island Gardener said...

Cheers Anon -
So glad you found me and took the time to leave such lovely comments.

Kanak -
I am thrilled you love the new look of my blog. And thrilled you won the Blotanical award for your site - well done - congratulations.