Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Indian Pipe Gratitude


 Indian Pipe is a freeloader among plants. 

It’s becoming common knowledge that the vast majority of forest plants and trees are connected with mycorrhizae; fungal strands that gift vegetation with nutrients and water and in return are gifted with carbon produced by it’s plant and tree partners through photosynthesis. Mycorrhizae also behaves as a storehouse for excess carbon and nutrients as well as a resource allocator for the forest. I’m this system, all mycorrhizae give nutrients and share energy where it’s needed. All plants contribute carbon produced through photosynthesis…except for the plant called Indian Pipe and a few others.

Indian pipe is the freeloader, getting nutrients and water from it’s mycorrhizal partner and getting carbon from surrounding forest plants and trees through its mycorrhizal partner. Indian Pipe gets without giving to the system that supports it. 

While it may feel natural for us humans to come down harshly on Indian Pipe’s selfish behavior (so judgy!), what if Indian Pipe’s status as the plant without chlorophyll is no fault of its own. What if that’s just how it’s evolved? 

What if the whole ‘balance of nature’ thing is not as simple as ‘give and take.’ What if there’s gratitude at work here as well (at least from our human perspective). 

The fact is, short of gifting the forest with its decomposed stem at the end of its growing season, Indian Pipe receives gifts it has no way of repaying. 

Indian Pipe reminds me of the gratitude I feel for all the gifts I’ve received that I’ll never be able to repay; and there are many! (The love of family and friends, all of wild nature’s gifts to me, and the list goes on.)

Perhaps Indian Pipe can remind us all to live in gratitude for the gifts received that we’ll never be able to repay. That’s okay. It’s healthy. It’s good.

Live in gratitude, neighbors.


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