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Natural Connections

Sep 1, 2022

Ghost pipe is generally declared a parasite, but radioactive phosphorus first injected into ghost pipe was later found in neighboring trees. Nature is rarely as simple as we think.

When I shared this relationship with a group of Wisconsin Master Naturalist students, they were indignant. Our culture loathes a mooch. “What good is it?” they asked. “What’s its purpose?”

The purpose of any living thing—at least from its own perspective—is to make more of itself. This flower is surely doing that. I could tell my students weren’t satisfied, though. We’re always looking for a benefit to US, or at the very least, a benefit to the ecosystem. “Its beauty isn’t enough?” I countered with a smile.

In fact, that beauty may be important.