To conclude the series of Oregon wildflowers, a photograph of a gnome plant. The conifer cone and needles gives a sense of scale, I hope. These small plants are easily overlooked, and perhaps this is why this past August was only the third time I’ve encountered this species (the first being in July of 2002 in West Vancouver’s Cypress Falls Park, the second in July of 2004 on Mt. Elphinstone on the Sunshine Coast of BC). Coincidentally, while doing this wet hike in Willamette National Forest, I was thinking about Hemitomes congestum during the walk in. On my way out, I spotted this plant (and a few others that were just emerging). Perhaps I noticed it from the corner of my eye while passing by it the first time, and that brought it into my thoughts.
A monotypic genus (only one species in the genus), Hemitomes congestum can only be found in western North America, from southwestern British Columbia to California (although Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and MacKinnon reports a disjunct population in west central British Columbia near Terrace).
Like its botanical cousin Monotropa uniflora, Hemitomes congestum is a mycoheterotroph; lacking chlorophyll, It taps into an existing tree-fungal root-association and extracts sugars via the fungus via the tree (please read the Monotropa uniflora entry for a better explanation / additional links). What excites me is that one of the known fungal associates of Hemitomes congestum is Hydnellum peckii, a fungus species I’ve wanted to see since I first became aware of it in that forum thread. Now that I know a few locations for gnome plant, maybe I can track down a bleeding tooth fungus!
Lastly, Botany Photo of the Day is taking a bit of a holiday. The next entry will certainly be published by January 4, 2010, though there is the possibility of some entries being published during the prior week. In 2010, not only will Botany Photo of the Day be celebrating its 5th anniversary in April, but there will also be a series of thematic photographs each month to celebrate the International Year of Biodiversity. More details to follow in early January.