December 6, 2020
We're reaching into the archives for today's #BenInNature update! The following post was originally published on April 22, 2020.
As little kids, we're taught that plants have a green pigment called chlorophyll that absorbs sunlight and converts it into energy. While that's true for most plants, there are actually about 3,000 plants around the world that don't rely on the sun to get their energy.
One of several examples that you can find in the woods here in southwest Virginia is Conopholis americana, also known as cancer root, squaw root, or bear corn. This plant doesn't have chlorophyll; instead, it's a parasitic plant that attaches to the roots of oak trees and beech trees, producing small suckers that leech nourishment from the host tree. Since this plant doesn't photosynthesize, it has no need for leaves. In the spring, it produces spikes of cream-colored flowers (in the case of the pictured plant, those flowers have mostly withered and turned brown; unfortunately, I missed it while it was in full bloom).
There are a few other plants in the woods of Virginia that don't bother with chlorophyll, such as the striking white Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora). If I manage to find any, rest assured, you'll see them on our Facebook page soon!
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.
NEW: TRIVIA CHALLENGE
You've seen the posts. You've learned the facts. Now, it's time to prove you are a #BenInNature Mega Fan! The museum's education team has developed the #BenInNature Trivia Challenge to identify the most devoted fans out there! Everyone who successfully answers each trivia question correctly will be congratulated by having your own nature selfie posted to the museum's #BenInNature Mega Fan Photo Album on the official VMNH Facebook page! Learn more and download the trivia challenge today by visiting www.vmnh.net/research-collections/beninnature-trivia-challenge.
NATURE PHOTO IDENTIFICATIONS
If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!