Pipe pollination


The Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) is an interesting plant — it lacks chlorophyll. Yet, it thrives in rare locations on the forest floor where it has carved out a niche which does not require it to have access to sunlight.

The story starts with a common mutually beneficial relationship between a soil fungus and a tree. The fungus passes minerals to the tree and the tree passes sugars and other complex molecules to the fungus. This is a relationship that the Indian Pipe exploits: It persuades the fungus to give up some of the sugars obtained from the tree, but it offers nothing in return. By taking the chlorophyll-produced sugars from the tree, albeit via the fungus, the Indian Pipe can survive on the dark forest floor where other plants often struggle for light.

From the point of view of a pollinator, a flower is a flower, and the Indian Pipe produces both nectar and pollen. Consequently, bees appreciate it just as they would any other flower.

A Half-black Bumblebee forages among the white flowers of an Indian Pipe. The pollen sacks on its back legs are packed with the yellow pollen of its flowers.

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2 Responses to Pipe pollination

  1. Margo says:

    Indian Pipe is a fascinating plant. I have some mag pix from the area of the Sharp Creek campsite on the Valhalla side of Slocan Lake. Thank you for all the info about it.

  2. Irene McIlwaine. says:

    Thanks for all that fascinating info. and picture .

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