that are completely
white, lacking all
chlorophyll. They’re called ghost trees, and they
dot the forest, ivory boughs
glowing against a background
of cinnamon bark and pine-needle green.
Because they don’t have chlorophyll these albino trees aren’t able to
photosynthesize. They can’t produce
their own food, relying instead on nutrients
from the redwoods around them, absorbed through
an underground network of roots and connective fungus.
Some call them vampire trees because they can’t survive without feeding off their neighbors.
But sample a vampire and here’s what you’ll find:
Heavy metals in concentrations that would kill any other tree in the forest.
The ghost trees absorb what others can’t tolerate,
producing safer soil for all the rest.
The other redwoods thrive
gratefully feeding the ghosts
that keep them alive.
Tara Campbell (taracampbell.com) is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. She’s the author of a novel, TreeVolution, a hybrid fiction/poetry collection, Circe’s Bicycle, and a short story collection, Midnight at the Organporium. She received her MFA from American University in 2019.