Meet the Parasitic ‘Ghost’ Plant of New York
There's a bewitching plant hiding in plain sight in the forests of New York. Technically it's a parasitic ghost, but it's also a welcome indigenous perennial that has a fascinating survival strategy.
There are mind-blowing plants everywhere you look in New York. From the four carnivorous plants that live in our local wetlands to the shockingly-weird viviparous strawberry, there's enough to keep any nature enthusiast occupied. But have you seen the ghost pipe?
The Ghost Pipe Plant in New York
The ghost pipe (Monotropa uniflora L.), also known as Indianpipe, is a strange and wonderful plant. Although it has a stem, leaves, and even a flower, the entirety of the ghost pipe (as the name suggests) is Casper-white. The reason this plant doesn't need green chlorophyll in its leaves to photosynthesize energy is ingenious.
The Unique Way the Ghost Pipe Gets Food
Interestingly, the ghost pipe has evolved to "outsource" the job of making food. While standard plants have chlorophyll to transform sunlight into usable energy, Monotropa uniflora L. acts as a parasite to fungi that have already formed a bond with surrounding trees. Put more simply, the ghost pipe takes the energy from fungi that have already taken it from nearby plants.
Invasive Plants in New York State
It's important to note that even though the ghost pipe has a relationship classified as "parasitic", the species is not invasive. While non-native plants can wreak havoc on a local ecosystem, the ghost pipe instead has found a way to coexist with its neighbors. So if you're lucky enough to find a ghost in the woods, take its picture but please leave it be. Check out which plants do not belong in New York below.