You may have spotted a strange little white flower growing in dark parts of the forest—often around beech trees—and mistaken it for a fungi, but Indian Pipe (a.k.a. Ghost Pipe) is actually an amazing kind of plant.
It contains no chlorophyll so, unlike most plants, it is white or pale pink in color instead of green. Without chlorophyll, it can’t make energy from the sun through photosynthesis, so how does this “ghostly” little flower get its food? Indian Pipe is parasitic, stealing its nutrients from certain fungi that in turn have a symbiotic relationship with tree roots.
Because it doesn’t need sunlight for energy, it can often be found in very shady spots on the forest floor and its ephemeral (short) growth cycle means it only appears for brief periods, usually after a rain that breaks a longer dry spell.
With their “ghostly” pallor and “sinister” parasitic appetite, these fascinating flowers make for a great way to celebrate Halloween, don’t you think? Enjoy these five photos from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest and have a happy, spooky Halloween!
This October, we’ve been leading up to Halloween with themed Take 5 posts covering critters that are spooky, creepy, and go “bump” in the night. We’ve highlighted snakes, crows, bats, and vultures, and now it’s time for the creepiest crawly of them all: spiders!
Even if the thought of spiders makes you want to run shrieking in the opposite direction, you have to admit—they’re pretty amazing. While different spiders use different webs for different reasons (and some don’t even use them), it is true that their silk has more tensile strength than steel!
With a handful of rare exceptions, their diets consist entirely of insects…and other spiders! And since the vast majority of spiders in Massachusetts are not dangerous, think twice next time you encounter one in your home and are tempted to squish it. Consider carefully relocating it outside with a cup and a piece of paper so it can continue its duty of ensnaring and noshing on pesky insects.
While folklore holds that spotting a circling vulture is a bad omen, turkey vultures actually perform a vital function within their ecosystem: Clean-up Crew!
Turkey vultures specialize in eating carrion (dead animals). They have a well-developed sense of smell that they use to find food. Their heads are naked so that they can reach inside a carcass without contaminating their feathers. They usually feed alone, but if a vulture sees others of its kind feeding on a carcass, it may fly down to join them.
Like crows, turkey vultures roost together, often gathering in trees by the dozen to sleep for the night, which can be a little eerie if you don’t know that these beneficial birds are harmless to humans. Here are five photos of turkey vultures from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.
All October long, leading up to Halloween, we’re spotlighting wildlife that’s “spooky,” “creepy,” and goes “bump” in the night with our Take 5 posts. Keep an eye out for next week when we tackle the creepiest crawly of them all: spiders!
Bats, our only flying mammals, are truly remarkable animals. It’s too bad their unwarranted reputation has prevented many people from appreciating how beneficial and unique they are.
All bats found in Massachusetts are insectivores. They feed primarily at night, catching thousands of mosquitoes, moths, and other night-flying insects. It is estimated that an individual bat can eat 600 insects per hour!