stipe [ stahyp ] noun: the stalk of an alga, fungus, or certain plants
The stipe of a fern frond is basically a leafstalk. The stipe of an alga connects the blades to the holdfast. The stipe of a fungus supports the cap. The stipe of an advanced orchid is a band of non-sticky tissue associated with the pollinia (pollen masses).
Just as a petiole attaches a leaf to the stem, the stipe connects a fern’s leafy blade to its rhizome, which is a modified plant stem. The color, texture, and structure of the stipe of a frond can aid in fern identification.
Left to right: Adiantum pedatum, Asplenium platyneuron, Athyrium aspleniodides, Dryopteris marginalis, Onoclea sensibilis.
There are about thirty different species of kelp. One example, Nereocystis luetkeana (bull or bullwhip kelp), an annual alga or seaweed, lives in the coastal waters from Alaska to California. It can grow to more than 100 feet of which most of the length belongs to the stipe that holds 9–14-foot blades. In contrast, Saccharina latissima (sugar kelp), an alga that produces mannitol, a natural sugar substitute, inhabits subtidal waters of the northern Pacific and Atlantic Oceans (south to Long Island Sound). While its 3–16-foot undulating blades may be similar in length to that of bull kelp, its stipe reaches up to a mere 20 inches.
The stipes of Nereocystis luetkeana (diagram and image, left) and Saccharina latissima (diagram and image, right).
Not all fungi have stipes, but for those that do, their texture, size, shape, and other characteristics often facilitate the identification of a mushroom. It is essential to examine fresh mushrooms to assure accurate species identification as wilting alters a mushroom’s appearance and poisonous mushrooms could be mistaken for edible ones and vice versa.
A variety of mushroom stipes.
NOTE: Plants in the wild should not be eaten without consulting an expert or authoritative field guides for information on identification and food preparation. It is easy to confuse plants in the wild, so you should be 100% sure they are edible before consuming them. Remember:
- Just because a plant is not identified as toxic does not mean that it is safe to eat.
- Sometimes only certain parts of a plant are edible and other parts of the same plant are toxic.
- Sometimes parts are only edible at a certain time in their life cycle or when prepared in a certain way.
Dodson, CH. orchid. Encyclopedia Britannica. (https://www.britannica.com/plant/orchid accessed October 24, 2021).
Ferns and Fern Allies. Minnesota Wildflowers. (accessed October 11, 2012).
Springer Y. Hays C. Carr M. Mackey M. Bloeser J. 2007. Ecology and Management of the Bull Kelp, Nereocystis luetkeana A: A Synthesis with Recommendations for Future Research. University of California, Santa Cruz. Pacific Marine Conservation Council.
Sugar Kelp. NOAA Fisheries. (accessed October 13, 2021).
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