- Rare plant found in white pine and pine-hemlock forests.
Pinedrops are a rare plant of white pine and pine-hemlock woods. They are unmistakable with their unbranched rust-coloured stems that grow to one metre in height. The white urn-shaped flowers occur singly along the upper portion of the stem. As the season progresses, the flowers and stem darken in colour, although they remain apparent into late autumn and sometimes through the winter months. Pinedrops lack chlorophyll and thus do not have the typical green leaves that we expect to see on plants. Instead, they bear numerous small scale-like leaves near the base of the stem. Since they lack chlorophyll, pinedrops do not photosynthesize. In other words, they can’t use the energy from the sun to produce sugars like other plants. Rather, they depend entirely on old pine or hemlock for nutrients, linking to their root systems through a special soil fungus.
In New Brunswick, pinedrops are found only in old white pine or white pine-hemlock forests on rich soil. They generally occur where the soil humus is very thick, as a result of numerous years accumulation of pine needles and other plant matter on the forest floor. Although white pine occurs throughout New Brunswick, old stands on rich soils are much less common. Minimizing disturbance to these stands is a positive step in conserving the species.
In New Brunswick, pinedrops have been recorded at roughly a half dozen sites on steep river valley slopes, in the Saint John and Restigouche systems. The species is found in other isolated sites, from northern Michigan and Wisconsin, through Ontario to Québec, New York and New England. A separate population of pinedrops is also found in the west of North America where they are more common.