Relationships [Guest Post]
What do these two plants have in common?
Reach your hand in the air, up over your shoulder, bend your elbow, and give yourself a big pat on the back if you said that the latter is a parasite on the former!
Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) has no chlorophyll and derives its nutrients by affixing haustoria (root-like structures) to the roots of Beech trees (Fagus sp.).
And Beechdrops aren’t picky. They will choose big trees:
…or little trees:
In her article for the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society Newsletter, Emily Grafton suggests that it is probably a good thing for Beech trees that Beechdrops are annuals because the underground structure “can grow until it constricts and encases the root it is parasitizing.” She implies that “unlimited growth would eventually lead to the end of beech trees and beechdrops.”
Beechdrops bloom in September and October. Be watching for them as you hike this fall.
Jennifer Schlick is program director at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Jamestown, NY and a great friend of mine! Make sure to visit her blog at http://winterwoman.wordpress.com as I think many of you do already! Thanks Jen for the wonderful Guest Post!
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I have to say that it is a lovely looking parasite.
17 September 2008 at 12:56 pm
I didn’t even know what either was ;D
Thanks for the info! And I agree with Sarah, it’s a lovely looking parasite.
17 September 2008 at 12:58 pm
I’ll be looking for them, Jen!
17 September 2008 at 6:57 pm
Very interesting/educational post. Thanks!
19 September 2008 at 12:05 am
Very interesting post. Thanks!
19 September 2008 at 10:31 am
I actually did know that, but those are great photos and a very interesting post.
24 September 2008 at 12:13 pm
prettiest looking parasite I’ve ever seen-nice post Jennifer!
25 September 2008 at 12:50 pm