Called ghost plant, corpse plant, and Indian pipe, Monotropa uniflora, lives up to its many names. It rises seemingly overnight from the damp forest soil in sparse clusters. Its pale, translucent flesh and nodding floral heads give it the appearance of both a pipe and a mournful spirit.
INDIAN PIPE ID CHECKLIST
- typically less than a foot tall
- color ranges from gray to white to pink, often with black spots
- resembles a smoking pipe, each stem bearing a single, nodding flower
- begins appearing in June, often during warm, wet weather
- typically found in forests with beech trees and rotting wood
- prefers shady, moist conditions
Its waxy, pallid color and lack of identifiable leaves gives it the look of a fungus, but Indian pipe is, in fact, a plant - a very special one! It does not photosynthesize, hence the lack of green clorophyll and its insignificant leaves. Instead, it has a complex relationship with both the fungi and the trees in its habitat.
|A miniature forest of Indian pipes.|
|Notice how the Indian pipes follow the roots of this beech tree.|
|This flower has been pollinated and is starting to turn upward.|
Botanical Society of America
Faifax County Public Schools ecology pages
Maryland Biodiversity Project
USDA Forest Service, "Monotropa uniflora - Ghost Plant, Indian Pipe"