Readers’ wildlife photographs

Reader Doris Fromage sent photos of a plant I’ve heard of, but have never seen:

We have been traveling as well; this trip took us up into the Northern Minnesota Boundary Waters area, home to copious quantities of fungus, which I of course felt compelled to photograph.  This one was my favorite, though it perplexed me as it triggered childhood memories of crocuses and snowdrops (it’s been decades since I lived in a climate hospitable to those), while otherwise resembling a fungus:



Isn’t it glorious?  Practically luminous!  AND IT’S A PLANT!!  A plant without any chlorophyll – the ghost plant/corpse plant/Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora).  Without cholorophyll, it is parasitic, specifically a myco-heterotroph.  It’s sort of a parasite-once-removed, as it gains its energy/nourishment from the mycorrhizae, the root/fungus complex of certain trees, notably beech, which are the ultimate source of the food.  These were in the understory of a mostly pine woods; since the ghost plant doesn’t need light, that’s a perfect niche for them to exploit.  It’s a perennial, but difficult to propagate due to its odd relationships.
Yes, those are flowers!  The plant is so gelatinously delicate that the slightest bump causes bruising (the black spots).  I thought they were fungi, and I didn’t discover they were actually *plants* until we were on our way home.  Now i wish I’d taken a picture looking up into the bell flowers!
JAC: I’ve put below a picture of the flowers taken from Wikipedia:

And reader Jesse Clayton sends us a perfect storm of mayflies, which you might know spend several years as nymphs and then live only one day at most as an adult, a day that involves finding a mate, laying eggs (if you’re a female) and then dying. The mouthparts are vestigial (no need to feed with such a short life) and the digestive tract are filled with air. The females of one species live less than five minutes as adults, and in that time they must mate and lay their eggs! It’s no surprise that they’re in an order of insects called Ephemeroptera. Beloved of fish and fishermen, they hatch synchronously, no doubt so they can find a mate but also satiate predators:

Jesse’s notes are indented. If you can identify the species, please do so in the comments.

I have attached several images taken on my phone at the Peoria Riverplex in Peoria, Illinois.  This facility is right on the Illinois River and the photos were taken on July 3rd, 2016. I have lived in Peoria for about 4.5 years now and have never seen an infestation like this.  The upside: they died within a couple days.  The downside: the grassy area seen in the background of the photos is the main area for the town to view fireworks the day after I took this picture.  Needless to say, during fireworks, every person I saw had at at least one mayfly on their body. They are so light and don’t move once perched that they are nearly impossible to feel even when on bare skin.





Two days ago the BBC reported that we had a stupendous synchronous hatch here in Poland—so large that the authorities had to remove the corpses from the road with shovels. Click on the screenshot below to go to the article and a video. Yes, those white objects are mayflies:

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 2.32.05 AM

h/t: Michael


  1. Posted August 4, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Interesting picks for today!

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I never knew what those plants were – nice story.

  3. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Intersting pictures! It is a little sad that Jessie apparently views the mayflies in a negative way. They are a key part of the rivers ecosystem and are beautiful creatures both when examined close-up in detail and when seen flying in their myriads above the water (especially when back-lit!). They may inconvenience the town firework display a little bit but any inconvenience is – as the name indicates – ephemeral.

  4. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    The Indian pipe is one of the oddest plants. But does it have a pollinator? Some sort of ‘necrophiliac’ insect?

  5. Posted August 4, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Both posts are great! I remember Indian Pipes from my childhood in Wisconsin. By the way, there are also US orchids that do the same thing–they lack chlorophyll and get energy via fungi. These are the “Coralroots” (Corallorhiza). They are often colored like jewels, bright translucent reds and yellows, but no green.

    There is also another order of insect that has mass emergences in the US, the caddisflies (Tricoptera). We used to have to shovel them away in Appleton Wisconsin when they emerged from the Fox River. In large quantities they are more disgusting than the delicate Ephemeroptera…

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      “There is also another order of insect that has mass emergences in the US, the caddis flies (Tricoptera)”

      And don’t forget the cicadas!

      • barn owl
        Posted August 4, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the variety of cicada songs here varies from year to year, depending on the emergence patterns. If I could figure out how to record the songs, it might work for a “guess the noisemaker.” For some of the stranger songs, it’s almost difficult to believe that an animal is making the noise.

  6. Posted August 4, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    No baby platypus? 😁


  7. keith cook + / -
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Great post. Ghost plants and a day in the life of mayflies or 5 minutes hmmm, well how about this, a quahog clam in Iceland made it to a geriatric age of 507??? with no pension.
    It just so happened a NG article this morning (awww hiss hiss) has a online story about life spans of animals.
    A sponge reached 11000 yrs and it is note worthy that if you want to be long lived, it is better to be a marine animal and somewhere cold.

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