Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A saprophyte used to be defined as any organism which obtained its energy from decaying animal or vegetable matter. Most species of Bacteria and Fungi were considered saprophytes. Phyte means plant. Saprophyte is thus an obsolete term because fungi and bacteria that feed on decaying organic matter are no longer placed in the Plant Kingdom. They should be termed saprobes or saprotrophs.
No embryophytes are now considered saprophytes so the term is completely obsolete. Plants that were once considered saprophytes, such as Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), are now known to be parasites on other plants. They are termed myco-heterotrophs because a mycorrhizal fungus connects the parasitic plant with its host plant.
Reference: Hershey, David R. (1999). Myco-heterophytes and parasitic plants in food chains. American Biology Teacher 61, 575-578.
- See also: Epiphyte
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