Plants need light in order to create food, or energy. This process is called photosynthesis and is carried out by chloroplasts, which are green. This is why most plants are green in color. Plants that do not create their own food can grow in conditions devoid of light. Because they do not use photosynthesis, they are not green and are often stark white in color. These plants get their food from other plants, which is why they are often called parasitic plants.
Monotropa uniflora is known as the Indian pipe or corpse plant. This ghost-like, white, waxy plant is often mistaken for a mushroom, but it is actually in the same family as blueberries. It grows in the deepest, darkest parts of the forest and is widespread throughout America. Monotropa uniflora attaches itself to a fungus, which attaches itself to the roots of nearby host plants. The fungus transfers nutrients from the roots of nearby host plants to the Indian pipe plant.When in bloom, which can be any time during the summer, each creamy stalk supports one equally white flower. The plant has no leaves, as it does not make it's own food. Instead, the stem features small scales.
Cuscuta and Grammica
Cuscuta and Grammica (commonly called dodder) can grow in no light, but unlike many parasitic plants, they usually do grow above ground. Dodder is a member of the morning glory family and does grow like a vine, twining itself around host plants, including large trees. The plant looks much like thin, white or yellow hair or spaghetti noodles. After germination, dodder seeds only have a few days to find a host plant or they will die. Once dodder makes contact with a plant, it will quickly overtake it, stealing the plant's nutrients and eventually killing it.
Conopholis americana is better known as the American cancer root. This homely plant attaches itself underground to the roots of red oak trees. Like many parasitic plants, Conopholis americana can live entirely underground, taking its nutrients from the roots of the surrounding trees. When it does show up above ground, it is to flower, which happens in the spring. The flowers can grow up to eight inches tall and are a dirty pale-yellow color. When in bloom, the flowers look much like pine cones resting vertically on the ground.