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Indian Pipe

What is Indian Pipe?

Indian pipe is a perennial wildflower with a wide geographic distribution throughout the United States.Although the plant is interesting, it is best enjoyed in its natural environment. Please don't pick when you find them. Bring a camera to capture this ghostly, glowing plant!

Where does Indian Pipe Grow?

Indian pipe is found in dark, shady woods with rich, moist soil and plenty of decaying leaves and other plant matter. It is commonly found near dead stumps. Indian pipe is often found in near beech trees too, which also prefer damp, cool soil. I have often found this flower next to stumps of pine trees, surrounded by their fallen needles.

Ghost Pipe, also known as Indian Pipe, or corpse plant, and whose botanical name is Monotropa uniflora, is an herbaceous perennial devoid of plant blood. Lacking chlorophyll it does not generate energy from sunlight. Ultimately, Ghost Pipe gets its energy from the photosynthesis of trees, parasitically sapping nutrients and carbohydrates from the tree roots through the intermediate source of myccorhizal fungus. These fungi colonize the tree roots in a symbiotic, albeit parasitic relationship, and play an important role in soil chemistry, helping to make nutrients available to the tree.

This is a magical gift from the natural world. There’s a lot going on underground that we are only just beginning to understand about this plant. Ghost Pipe appears from early summer to early autumn after a rainfall and when the weather is warm, bearing a single bell-shaped flower. Spending most of its life underground it grows in the dark because it is not dependent on light for photosynthesis. It may look like a fungus, but it really is a flowering plant. Eventually poking its way up through decaying leaves, Ghost Pipe rises on a slender stalk, and then nods its flower head, thus resembling a pipe with its stem stuck in the ground. Slowly the plant will straighten into an upright position with the flower pointing skyward. It is only about five inches tall and commonly found in small clusters.


'Tis whiter than an Indian Pipe - 'Tis dimmer than a Lace - No stature has it, like a Fog When you approach the place Not any voice imply it here - Or intimate it there - A spirit - how doth it accost What function hath the Air? This limitless Hyperbole Each one of us shall be - 'Tis Drama if Hypothesis It be not Tragedy - Emily Dickinson

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