False Beech-drops; Yellow Bird’s-nest
(Hypopitis Hypopitis) Indian-pipe family
(Monotropa Hypopitis of Gray)
FlowersTawny, yellow, ecru, brownish pink, reddish, or bright crimson, fragrant, about ‘ in. long ; oblong bell-shaped ; borne in a one-sided, terminal, slightly drooping raceme, be-coming erect after maturity. Scapes : Clustered from a dense mass of fleshy, fibrous roots ; 4 to 12 in. tall, scaly bracted, the bractlets resembling the sepals. Leaves: None.
Preferred HabitatDry woods, especially under fir, beech, and oak trees.
Flowering Season June–October.
DistributionFlorida and Arizona, far northward into British Possessions. Europe and Asia.
Branded a sinner, through its loss of leaves and honest green coloring matter (chlorophyll), the pine sap stands among the disreputable gang of thieves that includes its next of kin the Indian-pipe (see p. 233), the broom-rape, dodder, coral-root, and beech-drops. Degenerates like these, although members of highly respectable, industrious, virtuous families, would appear to be as low in the vegetable kingdom as any fungus, were it not for the flowers they still bear. Petty larceny, no greater than the fox-glove’s at first, then greater and greater thefts, finally lead to ruin, until the pine-sap parasite either sucks its food from the roots of the trees under which it takes up its abode, or absorbs, like a ghoulish saprophyte, the products of vegetable decay. A plant that does not manufacture its own dinner has no need of chlorophyll and leaves, for assimilation of crude food can take place only in those cells which contain the vital green. This substance, universally found in plants that grub in the soil and literally sweat for their daily bread, acts also as a moderator of respiration by its absorptive influence on light, and hence allows the elimination of carbon dioxide to go on in the cells which contain it. Fungi and these degenerates which lack chlorophyll usually grow in dark, shady woods.
Within each little fragrant pine-sap blossom a fringe of hairs, radiating from the style, forms a stockade against short-tongued insects that fain would pilfer from the bees. As the plant grows old, whatever charm it had in youth disappears, when an unwholesome mould overspreads its features.