Indian Pipe, the Ghost Flower

Indian Pipe or Ghost Plant in Flower  Indian Pipe or Monotropia Uniflora in Flower

Indian Pipe, also known as Ghost Flower and Monotropa Uniflora, is a unique and interesting plant found in shady woods that are rich in decaying plant matter. I've seen it in many places along the Long Trail, and it's a real standout, in the otherwise green tunnel of the Vermont rain forest.

Indian Pipe is white because it does not use chlorophyll, the stuff that most other plants use to generate energy and that makes them green. Instead it obtains nutrients by tapping into the roots of certain mushrooms in what is thought to be a parasitic relationship. However, recent research has shown that populations of mushroom fungi located near Indian Pipe are an order of magnitude more abundant that fungi located farther away, suggesting that there is a more beneficial relationship between the two.

Indian Pipe grows below ground except during it's flowering phase, between June and September, when the plant breaks the surface and flowers. In Vermont the flowering plant grows to about 6 inches in height and grows individually or in small clumps. When one of the white flowers has been pollinated by a bee, the flower turns upright and the plant turns brown.

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6 Responses to Indian Pipe, the Ghost Flower

  1. bevson September 4, 2008 at 4:15 am #

    I found a lot of these growing on my property this summer AND along the AT here in NJ. Many day-trippers along the trail that I have met do not look around at the tender beauty that surrounds them. A pity really.

  2. Earlylite September 4, 2008 at 4:40 am #

    I couldn't agree more. It's easy to fall into the goal-oriented trap where your only focus is to bag peaks or rack up huge daily mileages. There's a lot of cool stuff happening in the backpacking ecosystem that's worth learning about and paying attention to.

  3. rob October 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    Not so much in Georgia, but they are pretty common in Maryland and southeastern Pennsylvania. I remember seeing them in french creek state park(pa) and on the AT and horseshoe trails as well as mt joy in valley forge.

  4. mountain girl June 24, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    I found many of these in the forest outside my house here in south western Virginia. I said “Those look like ghost flowers!” and then I googled white forest flowers and what do you know… lol. :)

  5. Dab September 22, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    I was just at a mushroom work shop today and they are abundant here in Hampton Roads area. One can collect it, chop it up and put into alcohol as it has municipal properties against inflammation and chronic pain…. At least this is what I was told by the instructors. Not sure if this is so but one of the instrctors use it daily in this manner and looked health enough.

  6. Elly July 5, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    Just found a small clump in my woods in British Columbia. Very exciting!

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