Image by pfly via FlickrThis is part two of my posts about the inspiration behind the title of this blog; the first was a plant I liked to eat, the second, well, it's also a plant, one with an awesome name, an incredible look and an even more intriguing life story. (What can I say, I
Fairy smoke, Indian Pipe and Ghost plant are just a few of the name by which Monotropa uniflora is known. Although it does not have chlorophyll, the photosynthetic pigment that give plants their green colour, M. uniflora is a plant and not a mushroom. It's in Ericaceae family, cousin to the the well known and loved cranberry and blueberry. It's a parasite. Instead of getting it's energy from the sun an making it's own food, it attaches itself to certain mycorrhizal fungi (mushrooms that have a symbotic relationship with plants, in this case, generally trees) and steals their food. This allows the plant to grow in the dark understory of dense and humid forests.
This plant is incredible. I've seen them in Quebec and now in Virginia Beach. They are widespread in forests across North America except in the very cold and arid areas. I've mostly seen them close to with beech trees at the end of summer and autumn which makes sense since these are the best times for mushrooms to grow.
Keep an eye out for these eerie beauties next time you find yourself in the forest, but contrarily to its juicy cousins, they are not edible so just look, don't bite.