Marion County Naturalist Marla Mertz presents an unusual wildflower that lacks chlorophyll. You can view her earlier contributions to Bleeding Heartland’s wildflower series here. -promoted by desmoinesdem
Venturing into the woods in late summer is not common for me, as the prairie whispers my name. A quick walk in the woods might just be a good change of pace. Hiking boots on and a camera over my shoulder, off to the woods I go. Within a few short feet of a walking trail, my eyes immediately zoomed to the ground…a snow white flower? mushroom? fungus? Kneeling to take a closer look, the flower appeared to be a fungus. My eyes gaze around the forest floor to see a few more tiny, white looking, flowers and some have tinges of color. Flower or fungus? Being easily entertained, I photographed in every way shape and form in hopes that some would help me to define this unique “something”.
What appeared to be a strange looking fungus, had all of the aspects of a true flower. Not green, but white; a clammy feeling to the touch and waxy petal looking leaves that alternate up the stem. Some were in clumps and some were singled out. Some bowed and some stood straight up. Some had a pink tinge of color and some had a dark purple to black tinge around the petal looking leaves. Some had little yellow-looking flowers within the top of the plant. After an hour of photographing and digging out the old reliables of resource books, all of these observations pointed in the direction of the Ghost Plant, also known as Indian pipe and fairy smoke. Mystery solved!…almost.