Skip to main content

Ghost Plant

GHOST PLANT (Monotropa uniflora)

Image adapted from Wikipedia
Original image by O18
So it took only four animal posts before I decided "hey, I'm going to write about a plant instead". Granted, I picked one of the least plant-like plants to write about, but still, this post is going to be more Botanical Review than Zoo Review. With that said, let's see how well this weird-ass fuckin plant stacks up in the categories I chose specifically for animals and using the arbitrary point system I invented! Whee!


One of the things that you might notice first about the ghost plant is it's ghostly appearance. That's right, it's called the ghost plant because instead of being green like a normal plant, it's almost translucent white like a weirdo. That's because it is heterotrophic (I'll explain what that means in more detail later on) and doesn't have any chlorophyll, the pigment that makes plants green. So they end up looking like creepy tendrils growing out of the ground. That makes ghost plants 100% spooky, and 100% cool as shit.

Points: 1/1


Unlike regular green plants, ghost plants aren't visible above ground all the time. Again, this is tied to them being heterotrophic which I'm not ready to explain yet but will rather leave hanging to build suspense. Instead, they operate more like a fungus, with the bulk of their body growing underground, and only their reproductive structures seeing the light of day. That's right, the ghost plant's flower is basically a mushroom. Like mushrooms, ghost plant flowers sprout up seemingly out of nowhere, enhancing their mystery.

Points: 1/1


Ghost plants are found throughout the northern hemisphere, including my boyfriend's backyard although I have yet to see them. Unlike animals (and by animals I mean large, terrestrial vertebrates), the global conservation status of plants is not very well monitored because nobody really gives a shit. As far as I could tell while researching this post, there isn't a handy-dandy service like the IUCN which lists the conservation status of different plants in easy to understand terms from "feelin' groovy" to "oh fuck". What I did find was Nature Serve which lists Monotropa uniflora as G5, and N5 in the United States. That means that globally and US-nationally it is feelin' groovy. Good for the ghost plant.

Points: 1/1


Okay, I am ready to explain why it's important that ghost plants are heterotrophic now. The majority of plants (and other green things, and a lot of non-green things) produce their own food using photosynthesis. This method of production is called autotrophy (specifically, photoautotrophy), and it's the reason that plants don't have to eat anything. It's also the reason that they are green. Photosynthesis requires a coloured pigment to work, and the main pigment that plants use, chlorophyll, happens to be green (just FYI, different coloured pigments exist). Things that can't produce their own food, like animals, fungi, and ghost plants (and a shitload of other stuff), have to consume other organisms, which is called heterotrophy. Because heterotrophic plants don't photosynthesize, producing green pigment would be a waste of time, so they don't bother. As well, they don't need constant access to sunlight, so they can spend most of their lives growing in relative safety underground. So that's interesting.

Ghost plants are specifically myco-heterotrophic (or just "mycotrophic"). They are parasites of the symbiotic fungi (called mycorrhizae) that grow on tree roots. To break down what's happening step by step,
1) Regular plants make their own sugar from atmospheric carbon using the awesome power of the sun
2) Those regular plants give some of their sugar to the friendly mycorrhizae in exchange for help absorbing water and nutrients from the soil
3) Ghost plants don't give a fuck and straight up steal sugar from the mycorrhizae in exchange for nothing because they are freeloading assholes. Rude.

Points: 0/1


The closest relatives of the ghost plant are also myco-heterotrophs, but the broader group to which they belong contains mostly regular plants, like rhododendrons. Other heterotrophic plants exist, some of which parasitize root fungi (many species of orchids do this), and some parasitize host plants directly (e.g., broomrapes and the corpse lily, Rafflesia). This means that parasitism evolved separately multiple times in plants, rather than all at once, because it is a good strategy under certain conditions, like living in very low light environments. So the ghost plant is pretty smart for hopping on the parasite train to eke out an existence where other plants could not. You go, ghost plant.

Points: 1/1

Life History

So remember when I said that ghost plants are basically like fungi in that they live under ground, obtain nutrients from other organisms, and send their sex bits skyward when the time comes? They're also really not like fungi in how they reproduce. In fact, their reproductive strategy is the most plant-like thing about them. They produce flowers with nectar to attract bees for pollination, and make seeds just like any other plant. So really, one of the weirdest thing about them is that they're actually kind of normal.

Points: 0.5/1 for being basic af

Interaction with Humans

Ghost plants don't really affect humans one way or another. They're not medically relevant, either in terms of causing irritation, or by producing helpful compounds. They're not poisonous, but they're also not especially good eatin'. They don't parasitize economically valuable species in a way that causes significant damage. Their flowers are cool looking, but if you pick them they'll wither up and turn black, so they don't have any particular aesthetic value. And, unlike some mushrooms, humans don't seem to derive any special pleasure from smashing them. They're just over there doing their thing while we do ours, which is pretty cool in and of itself.

Points: 1/1

Final Score: 5.5/7
Turns out ghost plants hold their own in my animal based metric. They are pretty cool dudes.

Further Reading


  1. The Best Games - Dr.MD
    From 세종특별자치 출장마사지 “Mega 안산 출장마사지 Fortune” to “Poker 창원 출장샵 at the Keno”, 충청남도 출장마사지 every player will be given an Play the game at the table of the Mega Fortune. 광명 출장마사지


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

European Stag Beetle

 EUROPEAN STAG BEETLE ( Lucanus cervus ) Modified from wikipedia Original image by Simon A. Eugster Stag beetles are a whole group of insects with big fuck-off horns on their face. I'm gonna talk about the best-known species, Lucanus cervus , whose name means "Lucanian deer", and is sort of condescending to the literal deer that presumably live in Lucania. Appearance Stag beetles exhibit sexual dimorphism, which means the females look physically different from the males. Female stag beetles look pretty much like your average beetle - that is to say, pretty and shiny, but don't make you say "woah, what the hell is that thing???" The male stag beetle (pictured), on the other hand, looks absolutely ridiculous. Like, what do you have going on there, buddy? Pinchers? For pinching? Who are you going to pinch with those? What look like pinchers are actually grotesquely oversized mandibles - the part of the insect used for grabbing and breaking up food. They need re

Pointy-Nosed Blue Chimaera

POINTY-NOSED BLUE CHIMAERA ( Hydrolagus trolli ) Image modified from Wikipedia. Original image copyright Citron. Since it is Halloween month, I'm going to write about chimaeras, AKA "ghost sharks", so-called because they look really pale and creepy. There's not really anything else seasonally appropriate about them but whatever, ghost sharks. They're also sometimes called "ratfish", and individual species often have stupid common names like "rabbit fish" or "elephant fish". Nevermind that. Ghost sharks. OOOOOOoooOOOoooOOOOOO. Since one of the common names for "pointy-nosed blue chimaera" is apparently the much more frightening "abyssal ghostshark", that's what I'll be calling them for the rest of this review. Appearance Chimaeras are named after a monster in Greek mythology that was half lion, half goat, half dragon, and 150% badass. Apparently whoever named these things (Linnaeus, I guess?) thought they lo

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

  Image modified from wikipedia;  original image by Thierry Caro HAWKSBILL SEA TURTLE ( Eretmochelys imbricata ) Okay so this one is going to be a little bit biased because hot golly gee god damn do I enjoy turtles. Especially  sea turtles. I just really think they're neat. Anyway, I'm going to try really hard not to give them undeserved points here, unlike my other reviews, where points are awarded based on extremely stringent criteria. Appearance Adult hawksbill turtles are, on average, one meter long, and weigh about 80 kg (roughly 3 ft and 150 pounds in freedom units). This seems pretty big for a turtle, but when compared to an absolute monster like the leatherback sea turtle, which grows up to 3 meters long and weighs as much as my old Kia, you realize that hawksbill turtles are the dainty lads of the sea, surpassing only the Ripley sea turtle in size. They are a rare combination of beautiful and adorable. Like, they have doofy little flippers and faces like grandmas, but