Do you see any flowers in this photo? They are there, slightly below and to the right of center. You’ll probably have to click on the photo to really see them.


This is pennywort, Obolaria virginica, a species in the Gentianaceae. It grows on the forest floor in deep leaf litter, from Pennsylvania and Ohio south and west as far as eastern Texas. Pennywort has little chlorophyll, so it doesn’t photosynthesize much if at all; instead, it derives energy from a complex relationship with a fungus and a host plant. This relationship is called myco-heterotrophy.

You may find some older sources that describe pennywort as saprophytic, but that concept is obsolete. As I was researching and fact-checking, I came across a great explanation from the USDA Forest Service: What Are Mycotrophic Wildflowers?


The flower color ranges from the medium purple shown here to nearly white, and the thick leaves are more purple than green. Th entire plant stands only a few inches tall.

Thanks to Katie for showing me where to find a good stand of these plants.

3 thoughts on “Well-Hidden

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