Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Little Prince's Pine or Pipsissiwa,  CHIMAPHILA MENZIESII

from the the June 21, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:

Last weekend after a tiring hike along a narrow mountain ridge I found a nice spot for my tent in a clearing surrounded by pines, pegged my tent and crawled in as the mosquitoes began clouding around me. Resting lying on my belly looking through the tent's screen door, the first thing my eyes focused on, in deep shade just a few feet away, was a plant about eight inches high holding aloft two pale pink blossoms almost too elegant to be real, as shown above.

I'd never seen this exact species but in moist, shaded spots in the East's Appalachian Mountains I'd often encountered a species in the same genus. The Eastern plant is called Pipsissawa. Sometimes our Oregon plant also is called Pipsissawa, but it seems that more commonly it's referred to as Little Prince's Pine. Of course it not a pine at all. It's CHIMAPHILA MENZIESII, a member of the Heath or Azalea Family, distributed from southwestern Canada south to Mexico's Baja California.

Little Prince's Pine or Pipsissiwa,  CHIMAPHILA MENZIESII, flower

Above you see a close-up of the amazing blossom. The camera had to be placed beneath the flower and shot upward, since the flower nods, perhaps to keep its sexual parts dry during rains.

In that picture the flower's corolla comprises five pink petals in the normal fashion. At the petals' bases ten stamens arise, their stemlike filaments unusually broadening at their bases but narrowing and becoming hooked above before ending in baglike anthers. The anthers dispense their load of pollen not through slits the normal way, but through tiny pores, clearly seen in the picture at the tips of each anther's two crests.

The large, brownish, oval thing below is the ovary, which will mature into the fruit, and that green disc at the image's bottom is the grossly oversized (relative to other flower-types) stigma. One wonders at this blossom's parsimoniousness with regard to providing its male pollen such tiny escape holes in the anthers, but remarkable lavishness in providing a landing pad for that pollen, which is what the stigma does.