Nov 24 2010
Here’s a strange plant that grows in oak or evergreen forests, the shadier the better.
Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) is a parasitic plant in the Wintergreen family whose summer and winter forms look quite different.
In summer the plant is all white, almost translucent, and its flowers bend down to face the forest floor. It has no chlorophyll and no leaves, just scales on its stem, because it lives on nutrients from fungi in the humus (leaf litter).
Indian Pipe’s white appearance earns it the nickname Ghost Plant. Click here to see its summer form.
In winter Indian Pipe is brown and stands about six inches tall. Its flower head is now a five-sided woody seed capsule that points straight up. The scales on its stem are wrinkled and look like the remnants of leaves.
Because it’s a perennial Indian Pipe is likely to bloom in the same place next year.
Remember where you found it. Come back in June to see the ghost.
(photo by Dianne Machesney)