Pinesap, like its close relative Indian Pipe, is a flowering plant which lacks chlorophyll, and therefore is not green and cannot make its own food. Often found under pine trees, Pinesap’s color ranges from yellow to pink, red, orange or brown or some combination of these. Often pine sap that flowers in the summer is yellowish, while pink is more dominant in the fall. Pinesap gets its nutrients from other plants’ roots, but not directly. Mycorrhizal fungi are the middlemen, connecting the roots of Pinesap with those of the fungi’s host plant, allowing nutrients to be passed along from the host plant to the Pinesap. Being the beneficiary of a fungi-dependent relationship makes Pinesap a myco-heterotroph.
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Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) are parasitic plants which obtain nutrients from the American beech tree. They insert a root-like structure called a haustorium into a beech root, absorbing enough nutrition to sustain themselves and produce flowers between August and October. Beechdrops belong to a family of plants (Broomrape), all members of which live as root parasites. Being annuals, beechdrops don’t live long enough to damage their host trees. Because they lack chlorophyll and obvious leaves (their leaves are scale-like and pressed flat against their stem), beechdrops are easily overlooked. Keep an eye on the base of American beech trees for these 5 – 18-inch plants which are flowering right now.