Monotropa uniflora (Indian Pipe)
|Also known as:|
|Family:||Monotropaceae (Indian Pipe)|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; moist rich woods, acidic soil, often under pines|
|Bloom season:||June - September|
|Plant height:||4 to 10 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Single flowers ½ to 1 inch long nod bell-like from the end of each stem. The 4 to 6 (usually 5) translucent white petals are barely discernable from the reduced sepals and faint, scale like leaves that fall over the flower head. All parts of this frail, ghostly plant blacken quickly from bruises and the dry air.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are non-functional and have reduced down to frail, lose scale-like appendages along the stem and are less than one inch in length. Stems occur singly or in dense clusters from the roots, break easily when new, and are translucent white like the flowers.
This species can be found throughout the forested eastern half of Minnesota and I've observed them frequently throughout my woodland wanderings. Like its closely related species, Monotropa hypopitys (Pinesap), it produces no chlorophyll, and like fungi, is not dependent upon light and can thrive in the shadiest of places. Since it cannot produce its own food it is sustained by the green plants around it. This relationship is not direct as its roots cannot directly tap into the food resources of other plant roots. The transfer is facilitated by mycorrhizal fungi that connect into both host and recipient roots and carbohydrates are passed along. This fungi dependent relationship is called mycotropism.
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken at Savanna Portage State Park, and Mike Peters, taken just west of Wadena, MN
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?