Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe, Corpse Plant or Ghost Plant, Monotropa uniflora

Summer growth forming a clump of Indian Pipe, photographer Martha Rasmussen

Indian Pipe is an easy plant to identify with white waxy looking flowers & stems.  The flowers droop protected by scale like leaves.  The average height of the plant is five to ten inches.  As the plant matures closer to the end of its life cycle the stems & flowers will blacken with age.  You will find Indian Pipe growing deep in the woods where there is an abundance of decaying matter mid-summer until the wet season begins.  This plant has the total absence of any green color and does not use chlorophyll to produce nutrients instead it receives all of its nourishment from the decaying matter of the forest floor by having a very unique parasitic relationship with two plants, a tree & a fungus.

Newly emerging Indian Pipe, photographer Shari Brewer

The plant needs to grow under the tree which provides protection from the sun and provides rich humus.  Fungus grows under the tree drawing its nourishment from the rich humus and roots of the tree with Its mycelia, (fungus roots).  In return when the fungus dies for the season the Mycelia provides nourishment for the tree. The Indian Pipe's roots reach down to the mycelia of the fungus & feeds from Its nourishment during Its whole life cycle.

You will find it along the drip line of conifer trees, sometimes appearing to be growing in rings or trails.  Some good trails to find Indian Pipe growing is Mt. Pugh Trail and Barlow Point Trail.