Monday, June 15, 2009

Whacky plants

Bird's-nest orchid Neottia nidus-avis

In a woodland, not so far from home, is the weird and wonderful bird's nest orchid (Neottia nidus-avis) - a honey-coloured, honey-smelling saprophytic plant (i.e. grows on or derives nutrition from dead/decaying organic matter).

Ooops! I used the word 'saprophyte' above, lifted from my old edition of Rose (The Widlflower Key, 1981) - but actually I'm incorrect. Mycologist's appear to be a little miffed at botanists for repeatedly getting this wrong. So let's put the record straight. Bird's nest orchid is an achlorophyllous (has no chlorophyll) myco-heterophyte (parasitic on fungi as its main carbon source) (see links below).

Another whacky plant, which I am glad to say grows in the verge down my road (despite the best efforts of the council/utilities companies to eradicate it), is the common broomrape (Orobanche minor). Broomrapes look a bit like orchids but they are not. They lack chlorophyll and are parasites on other plants.

Common broomrape Orobanche minor

Useful links:

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