The Phantom Orchid, Cephalanthera austiniae is endemic to northwestern North America. This plant has no chlorophyll and is entirely white. Incapable of photosynthesis, it is entirely dependent on mycorrhizal fungi for its nutrition. Since the fungi receive no benefit from this relationship, this is not a mutualism but rather a case of a plant parasitizing fungi.
More about this orchid: Encyclopedia of Life
Image by Earl Nance via CalPhotos
The fact that they’re unrelated aside, it’s sort of a slightly perkier take on the equally mycoheterotrophic ghost plant (or corpse plant), Monotropa uniflora. And while I’m on a completely unscientific note, I’m always fascinated by pristine white plants and fungi and their penchant for combining dastardly qualities with their comically menacing common names. Destroying angels, anyone?
Oh, and a word to wanderers: mycoheterotrophs like the phantom orchid and ghost plant tend to be unique attractions for their pallor, and because of this they often become souvenirs for hikers. Not only is it a standing rule that you should never harvest wild plants (there are few exceptions, like being a botanist with explicit permission and a thorough understanding of the plant’s conservation status; the phantom orchid is threatened, for example), but you should also know that trying to move these species to your home garden is a fool’s errand. Their reliance on mycorrhizal fungi makes them impressively difficult to transplant successfully. —MN