Monday, July 09, 2012

Blessed relief!

Indian pipes
The heat wave has finally broken, after topping out at 101 degrees F. on Saturday. Storms rumbled past that evening but missed me entirely. I don’t mind that I didn’t get the wind or that lightning never struck closer than a few miles away, but I sure could have used some of the rain. A week of temperatures that ranged from 93-101 just sucked the moisture out of the forest, leaving it wilted and crackly.

So perhaps the drying out and thinning of the forest understory is the reason why I was able to see these Indian pipes. Indian pipes are a parasite, technically, and not a fungus, which is what you’d probably guess they were if you didn’t know. Without chlorophyll, it’s a plant, a parasite of a fungus that takes nutrients from a tree. And Indian pipes need nutrients both from the host fungus and the tree, making it a double parasite. They were one of the first woodland plants I could identify and probably the first I ever remember seeing, somewhere way back in my childhood. I still think they are a neat plant. They don’t grow very large, usually around 4-6 inches tall. Occasionally I see a taller grouping that is 8-10 inches tall, but those aren’t typical.

American beech trees are a host for the fungus that Indian pipes like, and my front forest has several of those. This little group is just a few of the 12-15 pipes I found yesterday under one of the beech trees.  The others are still just poking their heads out of the ground.  These are still growing and while the heads will always droop, the plant will uncurl more than they are right now. The plant is also called corpse plant and ghost plant, and it’s waxy to the touch. If you pick them they wilt and turn black right away. I learned that at a young age, too.

5 comments:

Amish Stories said...

Your very correct it is a blessed relief for us in Pennsylvania. Richard

Scott said...

Nice image, Carolyn. I haven't seen any Indian pipes here yet, but I also haven't been wandering the woods in the oppressive heat. The wind, lightning and thunder last Saturday evening left us high and still very, very dry, too.

Henry Mitchel said...

Yeah! I agree with you! :)

Carolyn H said...

Richard: I could certain use a little more relief--this time in the form of rain. Boy, is it dry here.

Carolyn H said...

Scott: When it's near 100 (and higher) it's too hot to be wandering anywhere--except possibly in Canada.