Massachusetts wildflowers & weeds | sweet beach pea vs. bittersweet nightshade, Good Harbor Beach dune plants

Beach pea (also known as sand pea) is a sweet native wildflower (Lathyrus japonicus) that’s easy to spot in the dunes– from any of the walkways.

The flowers with the purple petals and yellow stamen daggers in the mix are “bittersweet nightshade” also known as climbing nightshade and woody nightshade. Solanum dulcamara is poisonous and invasive and thus weed.

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WILDFLOWERS

Reader Robert Millman sent photos and wrote the following question:

I am new to Gloucester, having bought a home two years ago.

As we were clearing some down trees and brush, we came upon a small stand on what I think are Monotropa, related to Indian Pipes, but do not look like any other pictures I have found.  Corliss and another local nursery were not able to provide anything further information.

Can you ask your readers or do you have any suggestions of who I could reach out to?

Thank you

Hello Robert,

Your beautiful clumps of wildflowers are the North American native One-flowered Broom-rape (Orobanche uniflora); also called Naked Broomrape. I can see why you thought it was related to Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), or Ghost Plant. Neither grows green leaves and both produce single flowers, typically seen growing in bunches.
Indian Pipes photo courtesy wikicommons media
Like Indian Pipes, it is a parasitic plant, which means it does not produce chlorophyll, or green tissue, deriving nutrients by attaching its roots to neighboring plants.
One-flowered Broom-rape photos submitted by Robert Millman
There are over 200 species Orobanche. Host plants for One-flowered Broom-Rapes include species of sunflowers, goldenrods, and sedums. 
Aside from white, Naked Broomrape also flowers in lavender and yellow.
The stems of Sporchia (Orbanche crenata), a species parasitic on the fava bean, are gathered and eaten in the region of Apilia, in southern Italy. Image courtesy wikicommons media.