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U.S. Forest Service

Mycotrophic Wildflowers

Thieves from the Heath

“Mr. Conifer, Mr. Conifer. We've been robbed!”

“Calm down Abies, what do you mean we've been robbed.”

“Mr. Conifer we just got a call from the warehouse and they are reporting that two pallets of food stuffs are missing!”

“When did this brazen theft happen, Abies?”

“It happened in the dark of the night Mr. Conifer. It looks like the work of Thieves from the Heath; probably the Snow Plant Gang.”

“Oh no, not Sarcodes and his den of thieves!”

Welcome to the world of mycotrophic wildflowers of the heath family (Ericaceae)! “Myco” means fungus, and “trophic” means nutrition. These fascinating wildflowers have no chlorophyll and spend most of their lives underground, only poking their heads up through the soil to flower and set seed. Like enigmas from fairy tales of old, they come in a variety of colors, reds, yellows, white, pinks, and browns. They are most often found under thick layers of leaf litter in deep-shaded forest floors.