I found some!!
I found some!!
I barely know where to start this post other than to say that anyone witnessing me photographing these would have thought me crazy. It was almost an act of reverence. The fact that they were in a messy state and jammed up next to a pile of dead branches made it difficult to deal with them, but damn, I found some. Like the nut that I am, I took a picture with my phone and emailed my husband about it. He was happy for me, but probably relieved, too, that he wasn’t with me and didn’t have to stand around doing nothing but watch me for who knows how long. He gets enough of that as it is.
After I stopped my happy dance and restarted my heart (just kidding), the first thing that struck me is how different they are from the type I found earlier this year. Clearly there are big differences with this flower and what I found this time was the late blooming type, which in my book was pictured exactly this color and this size. They’re really that bright. Honest. No hue or saturation sliders were abused during the processing. And they’re little – the size of typical indian pipe which is 3-5 inches high. The other type is much larger.
Despite all my reference sources saying there are two genetically distinct varieties of this plant, they both have the same scientific name – Monotropa hypopitys. There is also Sweet Pinesap (Monotropsis odorata) which only grows in the mid-Atlantic states. It mostly resembles the early blooming type, but also has two blooming seasons itself. The later one is lilac colored, but unlike its earlier blooming friends it has no fragrance (it hangs onto that name though). Its flowers come outof crisp little wrappers, too. That would be really cool to see. Maybe someday.
As you can see, not a scrap of green on these babies which makes them saprophytic. Like others in this family, pinesap is a mycotroph which means it uses fungus in the soil to facilitate the transfer of nutrients, sometimes directly from the roots of nearby plants.
While I worked with the flowers, I lost track of time and luckily no one came by. Considering the number of dogs in this conservation property, I’m shocked the flowers were still there and not destroyed. They were right on the side of the trail.
When I left, I gently covered them with a fallen branch that still had leaves on it; better to protect them maybe, I don’t know. I hope they live to be pollinated and can spread their seeds around so they come up again next year. So long as the fungus doesn’t die, either.
As you probably figured, the Olympus 90mm was on duty for this momentous event.
Even with the naked eye they are fuzzy, unlike indian pipe which has smooth petals. I don’t know if the yellow or early blooming pinesap is also fuzzy, but I think it is judging by the ones I found. Reminds me of the differences between nectarines and peaches. Both are sweet and talismans of summer and I hope I get to savor them again next year.