On the evening of October 16th the Blue Ridge, Foothills and Lakes chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists was lucky enough to have Dr. Ryan Huish, Assistant Professor at Hollins University, give an extremely interesting presentation about the Pirate Bush.
If you haven't heard of the pirate bush or don't know a lot about it, you are to be forgiven. The pirate bush is a relatively rare plant and is indiginous to a small area in south western Virginia and some other spots in the southern Appalacian Mountains. It's most popular place happens to be on Poor Mountain right here in the Roanoke area.
Dr. Huish has been doing rather extensive research to determine why the pirate bush seems to thrive so well on Poor Mountain and not as well in other nearby places with similat topography and climate. So far the answer has eluded him.
The pirate bush is in the sandalwood family. It is hemiparasitic, meaning that it takes nutriants from the roots of nearby plants such as pines and oaks. It is also dioecious (I had to look that one up to spell it), meaning that there are both male and female plants. So far after extensive study, Ryan has been unable to determine the pollinator for this plant. He is continuing his search. The pirate bush does put out a small fruit containing one seed. The seeds are a food source, most likely for small rodents.
If you want to find out more information about the pirate bush, please follow this link to Ryan's blog Botanically Speaking: http://botanicallyspeaking.wordpress.com/research-2/piratebush/. Our thanks go out to Ryan for an enjoyable and informative evening.