May I introduce…. The most ghostly of flowers???
‘Saprophytic plants’ are those fascinating ghost like outliers of the plant kingdom that defy the norm and thrive without the need for photosynthesis! These pale beauties have no chlorophyll and no hint of green. Instead, they are shrouded in hues of white and pink. Without chlorophyll, they are unable to get their food from the sun, but instead depend on the process of decomposition. They extract sustenance from the decaying remnants of the forest.
Most do not directly digest dead material, but have a symbiotic bond with subterranean fungi, ultimately obtaining photosynthate from the fungus that derived it from its host.
These mysterious plants, with intriguing names like ghost pipes, fairy cups, and forest phantoms, are relatively uncommon, with only a few described species. They are a wonderful part of the fascinating world of decomposition that transforms detritus into sustenance for new life.
The ‘4 Ladies in Tennis Shoes’, a remarkable group of amateur botanists in the Umpqua Watershed in the 1970s, found, photographed and documented every known saprophytic plant across Oregon near Limpy Rock in the Proposed Crater Lake Wilderness area. Their work documenting these beauties along with hundreds of other plants resulted in 1800 acres in Limpy Rock being set aside as a Natural Resource Area.