Natural History Photographs

Ecological interactions of plants and fungi

Monotropa hypopitys
Theth (Shkodër), Albania; 16 July 2018.

Pterpspora andromedea
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming), USA; 18 & 22 August 2017.

Looking at these photos, one can immediately see these plants lack an essential plant-quality: being green. The lack of chlorophyll makes clear that these plants must have a special way of making a living - and indeed they have: they parasitize on fungi! The fungi themselves are living symbiotically with trees, which provide the fungus with sugars. So the trees photosynthesize, exchange photosynthate with the fungus, which in turn is parasitized by the plants. In effect, the plants receive sugars from the trees, via a fungal wire!