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Friday, September 2, 2016

Who needs chlorophyll?

In New Hampshire earlier this week, we were treated to nice views of a couple of interesting plants:

Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora) This is a non-photosynthetic plant, hence the lack of green color.  A long time ago, I learned that Indian Pipe was a saprophyte, obtaining nutrients from decaying organic matter.  However, it appears that this information has changed.  Indian Pipe is now considered a mycoheterotroph.  The "myco" portion of this term refers to the plant's relationship with a fungus.  Indian Pipe parasitizes mycorrhizal fungi that are symbiotic with trees.

Below is a close-up of some of the flowers, with the yellow flower parts visible inside the petals.  You can also see the thin, scale-like leaves along the stems:


And the next flower?

Little Floating Bladderwort (Urticularia radiata) — While Indian Pipe lacks chlorophyll, bladderwort does photosynthesize, but it is also a carnivore.  There are very small bladders (only 1-2 mm across) along the narrow leaves (the branching thread-like structures in the pictures above and below).  The bladders capture microscopic aquatic invertebrates (!) that swim a little too close to the plant.

There are about a dozen species of bladderworts in New England.  This one is known for its specialized inflated branches, allowing it to float at the water surface.

P.S.  Indian Pipe can be found in northwestern California.  And there are six species of bladderworts in California.  Have you seen any of them?


Kristin Aquilino said...


Hisham said...

I feel I must point out that little floating bladderwort is indeed photosynthetic; in fact all carnivorous plants are photosynthetic.

Jackie Sones said...


I'm so glad you pointed out my error! I was a little too quick to write about this, especially while "on the road" and without more time and resources available.

I'll correct it in the post...and it also brings up an interesting topic...the relationship between photosynthesis and carnivory in these types of plants.

Thanks again, and apologies for the original mistake!


Anonymous said...

Interesting you saw Indian Pipe! I always remember seeing it "bloom" in the late spring in Massachusetts. It always sort of creeped me out.