Searching for Florida's Indian Pipes
|Monotropa uniflora, the pink form|
We will be visiting Florida in mid-December on a plant collecting fieldtrip. We are specifically looking for Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora), the white form and particularly the pink to dark-pink forms. This research is part of a worldwide study on the monotropoid group of plants. If any of your members could supply information on locations where we might find these we would be most grateful! We have found that local knowledge can be crucial to successfully locating monotropoids. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Indian pipes and their close relatives (pinesap, pinedrops, pigmypipes, etc.) are fascinating because they completely lack chlorophyll: this means they depend on other plants for food. It used to be thought that they were parasites, but in fact they are part of a three-way symbiosis: an underground fungus forms a bridge between the roots of the Indian Pipes and the roots of a tree that is the ultimate source of food. The seeds also require the presence of the fungus to germinate: this is one reason they are so darn hard to find! In fact, these plants are often mistaken for fungi at first glance, and it is difficult to establish detailed family relationships by looking at the plant's morphology. We are isolating DNA from both the plant and the fungus to establish family relationships within the monotropoids.
Northern Indian Pipes are usually white, occasionally pale pink. In Mexico they can be much larger flowered, and dark-pink to salmon-colored. We are trying to establish if these southern pink forms - which have also been reported in Florida - are a distinct species, and just how closely they are related to the white forms.
Again, you can reach us at email@example.com with locality information, or any other questions about these unusual plants!