Indian-Pipe

Ghost Plant, Monotropa uniflora. Ericaceae family.

What an honor to find these rare beauties! They aren’t out in their full glory yet, but they are still breathtaking. 

These plants completely lack chlorophyll and cannot do photosynthesis. Instead, they get their nutrients from the fungi that are attached to nearby conifers. 

Tiger Mountain, WA. 6/5/2015.

This is the Indian Pipe plant, an eerie-looking plant, in my opinion. Monotropa uniflora is a heterotroph. That means that it doesn’t photosynthesize. Instead, it’s a parasitic plant that relies on mycorrhizal fungi for its nutrients.
Why is it white? No chlorophyll, no green.
It’s also known as the Ghost Plant, and the Corpse Plant. 

Indian Pipe

Photo taken in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, and submitted by brian-my-left-testicle.


The Indian Pipe or Ghost Plant, Monotropa uniflora (Ericales - Ericaceae), is a flowering plant entirely white that gets its food through its stubby roots that contain fungi.  And the fungi, extend in a web-like way through dead rotting leaves and connect up to the roots of conifers. The conifers provide sugar, which the fungi carry to the Indian Pipe plant. So it’s really a parasite, but on fungi [1].

Indian Pipe

Love this hugging cluster of Indian Pipes emerging from the pile of last-year leafs:)

The life of the Indian Pipe depends on a three-way relationship with a fungus and another plant. The life strategy of the Indian Pipe makes it look vaguely like a fungus, and live where mushrooms may be common, but in fact it is a very unusual plant.

Monotropa uniflora, (also known as the ghost plant, Indian pipe, or corpse plant) is native to temperate regions of Asia, North America and northern South America, but with large gaps between areas. Unlike most plants, it is white and does not contain chlorophyll. Instead of generating energy from sunlight, it is parasitic, more specifically a myco-heterotroph. Its hosts are certain fungi that are mycorrhizal with trees, meaning it ultimately gets its energy from photosynthetic trees. Since it is not dependent on sunlight to grow, it can grow in very dark environments as in the understory of dense forest.