Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe
Monotropa uniflora

The parasitic flower of the forest floor.

Indian Pipes look like a cross between a flower and a mushroom.  They appear as if they poke up through the leaf litter of a well shaded forest, just as mushrooms do.  They are also heterotrophs and saprophytes (decomposers) just as fungi are.  My students love to point out that there are carnivorous plants when we discuss the role plants have as producers in ecosystems.  I should rememeber to mention Indian Pipe as a parasitic plant to them.  Kids love the exceptions to the rule. Look for beautiful bright white flowers, that almost look like scuptures of flowers made out of candle wax.  They have scale-like leaves. I have to admit that I have never touched an Indian Pipe, despite seeing and photographing them many times.  Perhaps their saprophytic nature makes me trust them less and think of them as a sinister plant.

Family: Heath Family Size: 7″ (1), 2-12″ (2)
Color:white or salmon
Flowers: nod towards ground; bloom June-Sept (1), May-Sept(2)

Turns black/brown Indian Pipe can take on hues of pink and salmon, but will always have solitary flowers.  Another member of the Indian Pipe genus called Pinesap Monotropa hypopithys has a similar appearance but the flowers are usully in clusters and it is colored yellow to red (2).

1. Alden, P., Cassie, B. (1998). National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, inc..

2. Reader’s Digest (1982). North American Wildlife. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader’s Digest Association

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