Friday, May 21, 2010

Mystery (Solved) Plant

I have much to report from my four-day school trip to Devil's Lake, but I think for today, I shall begin with my mystery plant. Last year, upon returning from this same trip, I reported on a mystery plant -- a parasitic plant commonly called squawroot or cancerroot. I also came across that plant this year, in even greater numbers. How interesting, then, that this year's mystery plant is also parasitic...

This year's discovery is Orobanche uniflora. Its common names are many, and include one-flowered cancerroot (odd, right? both have cancerroot as a common name...), one-flowered broomrape (its family, incidentally), and ghost pipe. The parasitic plant feeds underground on the roots of other vascular plants. It lives throughout most of the US, but tends to keep to rocky forests. It seems to come in a range of colors, from nearly pure white to deep purple, but the ones I saw were interestingly pale with deep purple tinges on the petal edges and a darker calyx as well. I noted, if you can read my handwriting in the sketch, that it was leafless, but it turns out that there are small (well under 1 cm) leaves at the base of the stem if you dig for them.

Other notations I made in my journal: The stem and entire flower are fuzzy. The flower has two bright yellow pistil stigmas (I think) and, inside the tube, only visible upon dissection, which I did to one that was already dying, 5 small stamen.

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