Garden of Horrors: Monotropa uniflora

Garden of Horrors: Monotropa uniflora

Usually, when I put one of these together, we all get to make stink-faces and act terrified by some weird plant or fungi. In the past, I’ve shared this horrific mushroom thing, trees that bleed red, and this ugly worm-like fungus. Today’s plant is a little different. It’s not that terrifying visually, but when you realize how downright weird it is, you’ll see why it’s a candidate for this series. Meet Monotopa uniflora, the ghost plant.

Ghost plants
Ghost plants, photo by O18 shared on English Wikipedia

They’re pretty to look at; Emily Dickinson reportedly loved them. Usually white, occasionally flecked, these plants can also come in pinks and reds if the conditions are right. And conditions matter to Monotropa uniflora. This mysterious fella is classified as an ephemeral (just like ghosts); it only shows up when moisture follows a dry period.

But, it gets much weirder. You see the ghost plant doesn’t need the sun to grow, and because of that, it can easily grow in very dark places (just like ghosts.) The plant—and this is a plant, it has roots, seeds, and flowers—contains no chlorophyll, which is why it’s most often white (again, just like a ghost.)

"Ghost Plant" by qkjosh is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Ghost Plant” by qkjosh is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We love creepy parasitic plants around here, and the ghost plant is also a parasite, but it doesn’t grow by feeding off other plants. Instead, the ghost plant feeds on fungi that are mycorrhizal with the trees in old growth forests (as far as I know, ghosts don’t do this, but you never know.)

Some people call these “Indian pipes,” but those people are wrong. This is the ghost plant. Take all of this evidence: growing in the dark, usually white and even translucent in places, rejecting the notion of the sun, spooky, and parasitic. That’s all very ghostly stuff—ghost plant is a much more fitting common name.

I mentioned earlier that Emily Dickenson loved the ghost plant, in a letter to a friend she once said, “That without suspecting it you should send me the preferred flower of life, seems almost supernatural…” which is a lovely thing to say about the little creeps.

Despite appearances, I think it’s pretty easy to see why the Monotropa uniflora belongs in our garden of horrors.


☠️ More Garden of Horrors


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

H.P. Lovecraft's Patriotic Poetry

H.P. Lovecraft’s Patriotic Poetry

Ol’ Lovecraft fancied himself a poet, and he had a bit of a Hallmark streak in him and often penned verse to national holidays. I’ve shared his Christmas versification in the past, and we looked at his Halloween verse. Here in the United States, our Independence Day celebrations are right around the corner so I thought it’d be fitting look at Lovecraft’s patriotic poem.


Ode for July Fourth, 1917

As Columbia’s brave scions, in anger array’d,
 Once defy’d a proud monarch and built a new nation;
’Gainst their brothers of Britain unsheath’d the sharp blade
 That hath ne’er met defeat nor endur’d desecration;
  So must we in this hour
  Show our valour and pow’r,
And dispel the black perils that over us low’r:
 Whilst the sons of Britannia, no longer our foes,
 Will rejoice in our triumphs and strengthen our blows!

See the banners of Liberty float in the breeze
 That plays light o’er the regions our fathers defended;
Hear the voice of the million resound o’er the leas,
 As the deeds of the past are proclaim’d and commended;
  And in splendour on high
  Where our flags proudly fly,
See the folds we tore down flung again to the sky:
 For the Emblem of England, in kinship unfurl’d,
 Shall divide with Old Glory the praise of the world!

Bury’d now are the hatreds of subject and King,
 And the strife that once sunder’d an Empire hath vanish’d.
With the fame of the Saxon the heavens shall ring
 As the vultures of darkness are baffled and banish’d;
  And the broad British sea,
  Of her enemies free,
Shall in tribute bow gladly, Columbia to thee:
 For the friends of the Right, in the field side by side,
 Form a fabric of Freedom no hand can divide!


The US got involved in The Great War in 1917, so it’s fair to say Lovecraft is offering up a bit of reflection for past events and the current situation in the world. I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for the whole national personification thing—it’s such a delightfully weird tradition.

Happy Independence Day, fellow Americans and happy Tuesday to everyone else.

🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸


Are you Lovecraft fan? Like cosmic horror? Like gritty urban fantasy? Why not check out my novels—they’re cosmic horror adventures set in a post-apocalyptic world after the return of Lovecraft’s monstrosities. Buy the series here read reviews over on Goodreads. All three are available in eBook or paperback.

The Bell Forging Cycle

 

Sir Terry Pratchett

Without Kings

“[The first version of the novel] was read by Terry Pratchett, aged forty-three, who said: hang on. I wrote that in the days when I thought fantasy was all battles and kings. Now I’m inclined to think that the real concerns of fantasy ought to be about not having battles, and doing without kings.”

Terry Pratchett


This quote comes from the Author’s note from the revised edition of Pratchett’s debut novel, The Carpet People. He wrote that book when he was seventeen, and it’s no surprise that twenty-six years (and many many many books) later, his thoughts toward fantasy had shifted. As a writer who tends to work outside of fantasy’s categorical delineations, I appreciate this perspective. I find myself thinking along similar lines quite often.

In an article for Stanford’s Arcade, Rutger’s professor Andrew Goldstone explored this quote further and examined how it related to Pratchett and his writing in “Terry Pratchett: ‘Not having battles, and doing without kings'”—it’s an excellent piece and worth checking out.

Visual Inspiration: Marilyn Mugot

Visual Inspiration: Marilyn Mugot

The urban landscape has long been a fascination of mine. Lovat—the central city in my Bell Forging Cycle—is my own love letter to the city form with its allure and optimism and the gritty shadows cast by those glowing ideals. Those contrasting juxtapositions are what makes the urban environment so appealing. I love the spaces between spaces, the often ignored corners where lives are lived, and the drama of humanity is played out. Whenever I find an artist who can capture that essence, I find that it enlivens me creatively.


“I strive to create a visual universe where fantasies, dreams and travels come together. Landscapes at night exacerbates a specific contemplative feeling which has encouraged me to create a new, obscure and sparkling world full of secrets and mystery.”

—Marilyn Mugot


So, it’ll come as no surprise that I’m an enormous fan of Marilyn Mugot’s photography, in particular, her Night Project series and much of the work she shares on her Instagram account. She excels at finding those small places and capturing them from angles that make me dwell on the city and its impact on our lives. There’s a beauty inherent within the urban environment, and in each of her pieces, Margot encapsulates those spaces with a cinematic quality, a touch of the surreal, and a subtle tenderness.

I’ve shared a few of my favorite pieces below. You can click on any image to view it larger.

This is just a tiny sample of Mugot’s work. I’d encourage you to check out her Venus’ Gardens series where she brings her iconic use of color to the natural world. It’s stunning stuff. You can see much more on her website, and I’d encourage you to follow her on Instagram as well. If you’re looking to purchase any of her pieces, you can buy prints from her online store.


If you like Marilyn Mugot’s work, be sure to check out some of the other artists who I’ve found inspiring in the past. While there’s certainly a theme to the art that inspires me, you’ll find lots of different styles, tones, and moods.

A Metric United States?

A Metric United States?

When writing Coal Belly—still very much a work in progress—I decided to keep my weights, distances, and measures in US Customary Units. This was an intentional decision. I felt that our strange and often confusing system fits a weird-west setting a bit better than a metric one—even in a secondary world. Feet, acres, miles, hogsheads, tons, they all just feel old-west.

But there is a modern simplicity to the metric system. It is superior, if not as charming. But, in the United States, we’ve resisted making the switch. Why? Well, Verge Science put together a great explainer video that goes into details on why we’re still using our bastardized version of the Imperial System, where it matters in society, and how we have already secretly converted despite our resistance. Watch it below.

*Gasp!* 😱 A DEEP STATE SHADOW SYSTEM OF UNITS AND MEASUREMENTS! A vast conspiracy! Inches defined by millimeters. Pounds defined by kilograms! Gallons defined by liters! Human Sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.

Or, it’s just good science and smart business. Take your pick. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Eight Years of Blogging

Eight Years

Today is I Make Stories’ eighth year.

I don’t typically mark anniversaries around here (I usually take time to reminisce every two. hundred. posts.) but I felt that today it’s essential to pause and thank each and every one of you for reading and supporting me and this blog over the last eight years, seven hundred eighty-four posts, three books, and six manuscripts. What a ride.

Your support means more than words can express. I couldn’t do this without you. Thanks for following, sharing, and commenting over the years. Thanks for the emails and messages of encouragement. Thanks for buying my books. Thanks for leaving reviews. Thanks for telling your friends. Thanks for all that and so much more.

I’m sure there will be further adventures ahead of us, and I’m glad you’re here with me.