Saprophytic Plants

YELLOW BIRD'S-NEST

Hypopitys monotropa

(Formerly: Monotropa hypopitys)
Heather Family [Ericaceae]

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8aug

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8yellow
pale
inner
inner8orange
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ4
or
petals
petalsZ5
or
stem
stem8round
 
rarity
rarityZuncommon
 
sex

unknown

7th Aug 2017, Birdlip, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Photo: © Mike Baldwin
This little gathering of Yellow Bird's-nest are erect because they are in the fruiting stage. It grows up to 30cm high!


6th July 2017, Birdlip, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Photo: © Mike Baldwin
It is saprophytic, aka heteromycotroph, drawing nutrition from underground mycorrrhizal fungi. Although saprophytes possess no chlorophyll, Yellow Bird's-nest can sometimes obtain a little benefit from sunlight by means of sometimes having a smidgen of chlorophyll.

When not ripe, it always hangs groundwards in the shape of an umbrella handle. It grows in what at first glance look like several short 'telescopic' sections, but these are just scale-like 'leaves' which are up to 13mm long.



6th july 2017, Birdlip, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Photo: © Mike Baldwin
This specimen is more yellow-green and may be capable of some photosynthesis to supplement its parasitic life on fungi below ground.


30th July 2016, Birdlip, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Photo: © Mike Baldwin
This specimen is erecting itself as it matures. The scale-like nature of the 'leaves' is here more apparent.


12th Aug 2015, Birdlip, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Photo: © Mike Baldwin
This specimen is giving us a glance at several of the narrower stalks sporting a 'flower' at the end.


30th July 2016, Birdlip, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Photo: © Mike Baldwin
The 'flower' on the extreme right is showing us some yellower internal organ which looks similar to a discoidal stigma.


7th Aug 2017, Birdlip, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Photo: © Mike Baldwin
The thinner stalks have a tubular 'flower' at their ends.


7th Aug 2017, Birdlip, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Photo: © Mike Baldwin
The tubular flower here has a large, yellow discoidal stigma surrounded by possibly 5 anthers.

The number of petals Yellow Bird's-nest has varies between 4 and 5 and the number of anthers it bears are probably similarly related: 4 anthers for 4 petals; 5 anthers for 5 petals.



5th July 2015, Harting, Chichester dist, West Sussex. Photo: © Dawn Nelson
They do like growing amidst leaf-litter. This a robust specimen.


5th July 2015, Harting, Chichester dist, West Sussex. Photo: © Dawn Nelson


Not to be semantically confused with : Bird's-Foot (Ornitopus perpusillus) or with Bird's-Nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis) nor with Bird's-foot-Trefoils (Lotus corniculatus) of which there are several [both of those are members of the Pea (Fabaceae) family] nor with Bird's-nest Stonewort (Tolypella nidifica) [plants with similar names but which are not related to Yellow Bird's-Nest - but both are saprophytes (or more correctly a myco-heterotroph) on underground fungi].

Nor to be confused with Bird's-Nest Orchid which is also saprophytic on underground fungi for sustenance, possessing no photosynthetic chlorophyll to provide energy from sunlight.

It has some similarities to Broomrapes such as Common Broomrape for these too are saprophytic plants lacking chlorophyll.

Yellow Bird's-Nest is yellowish, but may sometimes have some a faint greenish tinge which may be capable of some slight photosynthesis. It is scarce and listed as Endangered. It occupies woodlands beneath Beech or Hazel on chalky soils. It can also grow on acid soils beneath Pine trees. Your Author thinks that it must be the mycorrrhizal fungi attracted to either tree(s) which makes Yellow Bird's-nest seek these habitats out. It also grows on damp dune slacks with Creeping Willow, which are acidic in nature due to the quartz in sand.

Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature : its pale-yellow to yellowish nature and when immature its umbrella-handle stance.

It's botanical name is one of much hilarity by quantum physicists: its name irregularly swaps between being called Monotropa hypopitys and Hypopitys monotropa! It is in a quantum superposition between the two names and genera :-)

Some similarities to Toothwort, which is also a parasitic plant.

It has two subspecies, of ~equal rarity (both have a Clive Stace [R] rarity rating):

  • Hypopitys monotropa ssp. monotropa which has
    less than 11 flowers
    petals 9-13mm
    hairy stamens, carpels and the insides of petals
    style is same height or longer than ovary
    Occurrence very scattered in England
     
  • Hypopitys monotropa ssp. hypophaega which has
    less than 8 flowers
    petals 8 to 10mm
    hairy or not stamens, style and the insides of the petals
    style is same height or shorter than ovary
    ovary without hairs
    Occurrence local in Britain and Ireland but absent from much of North & West Britain.

The fruit is a capsule (sorry, no photos).


  Hypopitys monotropa  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Ericaceae  

Distribution
 family8Heather family8Ericaceae
 BSBI maps
genus8Hypopitys
Hypopitys
(Hypopitys)

YELLOW BIRD'S-NEST

Hypopitys monotropa

(Formerly: Monotropa hypopitys)
Heather Family [Ericaceae]