Pinesap (Monotropa hypopitys), like its close relative Indian Pipe, is a flowering plant which has no chlorophyll, and therefore is not green. Often found under pine trees, Pinesap’s color ranges from yellow to pink, red, orange or brown or some combination of these. Because it has no chlorophyll, it also cannot obtain energy from sunlight. (Therefore, it can thrive in very shady areas.) Pinesap gets its nutrients from other plants’ roots, but not directly. Mycorrhizal fungi are the middlemen, connecting the roots of Pinesap with those of its host plant, allowing nutrients to be passed along from the host plant to the Pinesap. This fungi-dependent relationship is called mycotropism. Similar to Indian Pipe, during fruiting Pinesap’s previously-nodding stem straightens, becoming erect.
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The very first Indian pipes are starting to poke up through the forest floor. Lacking chlorophyll, this flowering plant cannot make its own food, but instead is parasitic and relies on getting energy from fungi under the ground that , in turn, derive their energy from the trees they are connected to. You can tell if a flower has been pollinated by Indian pipe’s position. Prior to pollination, the flower head bends down towards the ground; after pollination, its stem straightens, and the flower faces skyward.