Woodland Pinedrops: Pterospora andromedea

Earlier this summer we ran across a peculiar plant making its way up through the earth in the forest. A strange striped asparagus? No Woodland Pinedrops: Pterospora andromeda.

According to Wikipedia “Like all members of the Monotriopoidiae , Pterospora andromedea lacks chlorophyll (trace amounts have been identified, but not enough to provide energy for the plant or to color it. Plants exist for most of their life as a mass of brittle, but fleshy, roots. They live in a parasitic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi, in which plants derive all their carbon from their associated fungus, but the relationship is not yet well understood.”

This makes it similar to several of the orchids we have encountered along the trail.

Now that summer has passed and fall is in the air the plant looks like this.

Somewhat like a small tree full of small pumpkins decorating the autumn forest.

Hello Neighbor

Blue_flowers_1

A recent report published in Science Daily describes the results of a recent research study published in the journal Current Biology supporting the hypothesis that when under attack from insect herbivores plants indeed communicate with each other.1

No, they don’t scream, but use chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds and release them into the atmosphere and are detected by their neighbors.

One of the major findings from the study is that when plants are under attack the compounds released become more similar between species suggesting a type of cross species communication.

The Author of the study Andre Kessler describes the results of the study as follows:

“What we very often see when plants get attacked by pathogens or herbivores is, they change their metabolism,” Kessler said. “But it’s not a random change — in fact, those chemical and metabolic changes are also helping them cope with those attackers. It’s very much like our immune system: though plants don’t have antibodies like we have, they can fight back with pretty nasty chemistry.” 2

Interesting stuff.

The article in Science Daily is an easy read and a little splash of color to beat back a dull January day might be just what the doctor ordered.

Courtesy of none other than….Plants!

References:
1. Aino Kalske, Kaori Shiojiri, Akane Uesugi, Yuzu Sakata, Kimberly Morrell, André Kessler. Insect Herbivory Selects for Volatile-Mediated Plant-Plant Communication. Current Biology, 2019; 29 (18): 3128 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.011

2.Cornell University. “Plants alert neighbors to threats using common ‘language’.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 October 2019. .

Woodland Pinedrops: Pterospora andromedea

Earlier this summer we ran across a peculiar plant making its way up through the earth in the forest. A strange striped asparagus? No Woodland Pinedrops: Pterospora andromeda.

According to Wikipedia “Like all members of the Monotriopoidiae , Pterospora andromedea lacks chlorophyll (trace amounts have been identified, but not enough to provide energy for the plant or to color it. Plants exist for most of their life as a mass of brittle, but fleshy, roots. They live in a parasitic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi, in which plants derive all their carbon from their associated fungus, but the relationship is not yet well understood.”

This makes it similar to several of the orchids we have encountered along the trail.

Now that summer has passed and fall is in the air the plant looks like this.

Somewhat like a small tree full of small pumpkins decorating the autumn forest.