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Monotropa uniflora L.

Monotropa brittonii Small

Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassAsteridaeA large class that encompasses asters
OrderEricalesTea, persimmon, blueberry, Brazil nut, azalea, many others
FamilyMonotropaceaeMonotropa family, which lack chlorophyll and get nutrition from parasitizing fungi
GenusMonotropaFrom Greek monos, “one,” and tropos, “direction,” since flowers always turn to the same side or, according to another source, referring to the sharp curve in the stem
SpeciesunifloraSingle-flowered

About plant names...

Indian pipes are natives of the temperate regions of Asia, South America, and North America. They are plants, members of the blueberry family, but unusual ones. Most plants use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into the energy they need to grow. Indian pipes lack chlorophyll—that’s why they’re white—and instead get their energy from parasitizing certain fungi. The fungi, in turn, derive their energy from trees. Indian pipes are able to grow on dark forest floors because they don’t need light. They even grow in the dark! (Remarkably, there are almost 3,000 species that similarly lack chlorophyll, and get their energy from other means. Since they don’t need to be green, they come in all kinds of colors.)

Identification: The ghostly pale color of these fragile-looking plants, and the nodding tops, makes them quite unique. In addition to white, plants may also be pink or, rarely, red. Plants are 4-10" (10-25 cm) high. Flowers are white, bell-shaped, about ¾" (1.9 cm) long. They often occur in tight groups. Flowers nod downward during most of their lives, but point straight up when forming seeds—the genus, Monotropa, is named for this trait, meaning “once-turned.” Indian pipes appear in rich forests, and are a sign of good hunting grounds for mushrooms.

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

Rare red form, from a mixed forest near Ithaca, NY, 7/12/2007, by Dave Matthews.

Online References:

Monotropa uniflora on Missouriplants.com

Monotropa uniflora on Tom Volk's Fungi site, at the Department of Biology at the University of Wisconsin

Monotropa uniflora at the U.S. Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers site

Monotropa uniflora on Wikipedia

Monotropa uniflora at the Botanical Society of America

Monotropa uniflora on Earl J.S. Rook's Flora, Fauna, Earth, and Sky ... The Natural History of the Northwoods

Monotropa uniflora on Michael Kuo's MushroomExpert.com

Monotropa uniflora on CalPhotos

Monotropa uniflora at Illinois Wildflowers

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

7/7/2012 · Gibbet Hill, Groton, MA
≈ 9 × 13" (22 × 32 cm)

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

7/15/2019 · Beaver Brook Conservation Area, New Long Loop, Hollis, NH
≈ 4½ × 7" (11 × 17 cm)

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

10/10/2012 · By Jacquelyn Boyt

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

10/10/2012 · By Jacquelyn Boyt

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

10/10/2012 · By Jacquelyn Boyt

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

8/15/2015 · Moose Cave, Grafton Notch State Park, Newry, ME
≈ 13 × 14" (32 × 34 cm)

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

11/27/2009 · Falmouth, ME · By Constance B. Kent

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

After pollination, the normally nodding flowers point upward. · 8/24/2013 · Cranberry Meadow Pond Trail, Monadnock Conservancy, Peterborough, NH
≈ 3 × 2½" (7.8 × 6.3 cm) ID is uncertain

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

7/10/2019 · Shepley Hill, Groton, MA

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

7/23/2017 · Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA
≈ 1½ × 2" (4.3 × 5.8 cm)

Monotropa uniflora description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

7/26/2020 · Back River Trail, Eaton Farm Preserve, Wiscasset, ME
≈ 7 × 7" (17 × 16 cm)

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

Plants are just emerging from the ground. · 6/28/2014 · Beaver Brook Conservation Area, Hollis, NH
≈ 7 × 5" (17 × 12 cm)

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

Usually these are nodding, not upright. · 7/3/2012 · Yellow Trail from Pearl Hill State Park to Willard Brook State Park, Ashby, MA
≈ 6 × 6" (15 × 14 cm)

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

Nashoba Conservation Land on Mt. Lebanon Rd · 7/16/2009 · Mt. Lebanon St, Pepperell, MA
≈ 4 × 5" (10 × 12 cm)

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

8/14/2015 · Roost Trail, Grafton Notch State Park, Newry, Maine
≈ 5 × 4½" (13 × 11 cm)

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

After pollination, the normally nodding flowers point upward. · 7/14/2013 · Ball Hill Trail, Leominster State Forest, Leominster, MA
≈ 2½ × 2½" (6.8 × 6.5 cm)

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

7/15/2019 · Beaver Brook Conservation Area, New Long Loop, Hollis, NH
≈ 5 × 4½" (13 × 12 cm)

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

8/8/2009 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton, MA
≈ 5 × 8" (13 × 20 cm) ID is uncertain

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

1/13/2010 · By Philip A. Despo

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

6/15/2007 · ME · By Kathleen Williamson

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

7/28/2009 · Pepperell, MA · By Philip A. Despo

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

8/12/2009 · Pearl Hill State Park, Townsend, MA
≈ 5 × 7" (12 × 16 cm)

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Indianpipe, Indian pipes)

7/10/2019 · Shepley Hill, Groton, MA

Range:

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