An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Posts tagged “Parasitic Plants

Lobster Mushroom

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Lobster mushrooms  are so named because they look a bit like lobsters – red/orange “shells” on the outside with white inside. A lobster mushroom is actually two fungi in one – the parasitic  fungus, Hypomyces lactifluorum (red/orange outer crust), and the mushroom being parasitized by the lobster mushroom (white, inner flesh, usually a Russula or Lactarius mushroom). Hypomyces lactifluorum has only been known to parasitize non-poisonous mushrooms and it has been eaten for hundreds of years without any known problems. Still, it is conceivable that it could parasitize a poisonous mushroom, rendering it harmful to the forager.


Beechdrops

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.