An explanation of the nature and benefits of the truffles

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An explanation of the nature and benefits of the truffles

In the natural world, however, it often seems to be the other way around. Where there's a way, nature invents the will. The fascinating plant called Indian Pipe is a great case in point.

Indian Pipe is a inch tall plant with a single pipe-shaped flower on each stalk. A similar and very closely related plant called Pinesap has multiple flowers on each stalk. Both Indian Pipe and Pinesap grow primarily in dense conifer forests, where few other plants can find enough light to survive.

Indian Pipe probably received its name because Native Americans used the sap for medicinal purposes, including treatment of eye infections.

An explanation of the nature and benefits of the truffles

Despite the mildly toxic nature of the raw plant, some people say that when cooked, Indian Pipe is edible and tastes something like asparagus. Other common names for the plant are Ghost Flower and Corpse Plant, references to the sickly grey-white color of the stalks, leaves, and flowers.

Indian Pipe is white because it completely lacks chlorophyll, the green pigment so crucial to photosynthesis. Without chlorophyll, Indian Pipe can't produce energy and food as green plants do.

So how does Indian Pipe survive? To understand that, you have to know about fungus and trees. Scientists have long thought that some fungi parasitize trees, stealing nutrients from tree roots.

In the last couple of decades, however, the complex relationship between fungi and trees has become more clear Tiny threads of fungus, called hyphae, extend throughout the soil allowing the fungi to absorb minerals. They also intertwine and sometimes even enter tree roots, an association called a mycorrhiza.

Through this association, the fungi pass minerals to the tree. In return, the trees pass sugars and other complex molecules to the fungi.

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The fungi exist as underground hyphae until conditions are right, when they quickly generate reproductive structures such as truffles underground, or mushrooms and puffballs aboveground. The relationship between fungi and trees allows each to focus on what it does best.

Trees, with their enormous above ground surface area of leaves, gather energy from sunlight and use it to turn water and carbon dioxide into sugars and other carbohydrates.

An explanation of the nature and benefits of the truffles

Fungi, with their dense underground network of hyphae, far smaller and more closely packed than even the tiniest of plant roots, can more efficiently harvest minerals from the soil.

The relationship is so beneficial it has become almost universal. An estimated 90 percent of plants have mycorrhizal relationships with fungi.

A single tree can support hundreds of different species of fungi entangled in its roots.

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This crucial relationship between fungi and trees makes a harmonious story of cooperation and mutual benefit.SWOT analysis of the truffles market in Greece Vaia Tsitsipati and Christodoulou Athanasios DepartmentofForestEconomics,FacultyofForestryandNaturalEnvironment.

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