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Monotropa uniflora (Indian Pipe) | by pvdEric
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Monotropa uniflora (Indian Pipe)

Monotropa uniflora (Monotropa – once turned; uniflora – one flowered) ranges in height from 10 to 30 centimeters. The entire plant is a translucent, “ghostly” white, sometimes pale pinkish-white and commonly has black flecks. The leaves are scale-like and flecked with black on the flower stalk (peduncle). As the Latin epithet uniflora implies, the stem bears a single flower. Upon emerging from the ground, the flower is pendant (downwardly pointed). As the anthers and stigma mature, the flower spreads to almost perpendicular to the stem. The fruit is a capsule. As the capsule matures, the flower becomes erect (in line with the stem). Once ripened, seed is released through slits that open from the tip to the base of the capsule. The plant is persistent after seed dispersal.

 

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. The complex relationship that allows this plant to grow also makes propagation difficult.

 

This specimen was photographed behind a large boulder in the forests of Rockville Management Area in Hopkinton, RI.

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Taken on July 19, 2009