Monotropa uniflora (Indian Pipe)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Monotropa
Family:Monotropaceae (Indian Pipe)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: bell

[photo of flowers] 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: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] During seed set and capsule formation, stem dries down to a twig-like stalk with an upturned seed capsule that can persist into the next growing season.

Notes:

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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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken at Savanna Portage State Park, and Mike Peters, taken just west of Wadena, MN

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Amanda - Star Island, Cass Lake
on: 2010-07-20 19:17:47

I saw some of these growing on the South Shore Campground and near the canoe storage at Camp Unistar on Star Island in Cass Lake

Posted by: Lynn - Bemidji
on: 2010-08-19 11:01:12

I thought it was a mushroom and included it my 'Northwoods Schrooms' YouTube. I took some nice closeups. What a curious plant it is!

Posted by: Steve - Boundary Waters - near Oyster, Hustler, Finger Lakes
on: 2010-10-22 12:36:12

Our group saw two or three clusters of these around the 4th of July 2010, two days after heavy amounts of rain. Like Lynn, we thought they were mushrooms as first. Good thing we didn't touch them. I hear they are very delicate.

Posted by: Kathryn - Whitewater State Park on the Dakota Trail, western wooded ri
on: 2011-08-17 18:55:08

We saw 3 freshly up clusters on the Dakota Trail. 6 different mushroom species were nearby. Aug. 16, 2011.

Posted by: Bob - Elko/New Market - just south of Burnsville
on: 2011-09-17 21:39:48

My two sons and I were building a fort out in the woods when this plant caught my eye. I've never come across this and I grew up in these woods. Thank you for the information on this plant.

Posted by: Jane - stillwater washington county
on: 2012-02-22 14:01:50

wow i always though that they where a fungus of some type

Posted by: Sue - the BWCA - Cherokee Lake
on: 2013-08-14 18:54:45

Saw a clump of these near a campsite on Cherokee Lake in the BWCA.

Posted by: erinn - north dakota
on: 2013-11-28 12:02:45

i am flabbergasted i love this plant it looks so cool

Posted by: kris - Fairview Township
on: 2014-07-10 20:53:08

Found this hiking through the woods on private property 3 yrs ago. Wish I had a landmark to find it again. But had my camera!

Posted by: Bill - grand marais
on: 2014-08-03 17:46:04

Just found a number of these just outside of town.

Posted by: Julia - North of Spring Grove near Yucatan
on: 2014-08-12 07:32:08

I saw a group of three or four of these yesterday while clearing brush along the roadside.

Posted by: Bonnie - Crosslake
on: 2014-08-19 16:04:25

We found many of these amazing flowers scattered in clumps in the Uppgaard WMA in Ideal Corners near Crosslake. I also expected them to be in the mushroom family.

Posted by: Keith - Rice County, Faribault, MN
on: 2014-09-05 16:18:31

On 9/5/2014, I found and photographed Indian Pipe during a hike through the Faribault Nature Center. The recent wet weather has produced a boom in different species of mushrooms. I also saw dozens of different species of mushrooms during a recent hike through Father Hennepin State Park but no Indian Pipe. The plants in the Faribault Nature Center were growing under oak trees in the leaf litter. It is definitely an interesting plant!

Posted by: Kim - Chisago County, Lent Township
on: 2014-09-08 10:17:32

We have several clumps of these growing on our property, under a stand of white pine and oak.

Posted by: luciearl - Lake Shore, MN
on: 2015-07-12 12:07:54

I don't know if conditions were prime last year, but found in several locations in nearby wooded area.

Posted by: cheryl - elm creek regional park
on: 2015-07-22 01:43:35

This are up now in Elm Creek park reserve. Some good patches of these. I was thinking these were fungi!

Posted by: Kevin - Andover Mn
on: 2015-09-03 09:50:45

This years growth was not as good as last year. They are in the pine straw in the shadiest part of my lot. There were both pink and white last year, only white this year.

Posted by: Karen - Grace Lake near Bemidji
on: 2016-07-17 19:23:05

Today was the first time I've seen them in our yard at the cabin! It's been a wet spring/summer.

Posted by: Connie - Lost 40. Itasca County
on: 2016-07-20 13:55:59

First time I've ever seen this plant, other than in books!! Very, very interesting ! Lots of shade, lots of decaying trees.

Posted by: peg - Cascade River trail
on: 2016-08-05 04:04:33

Saw this morning along the Cascade River Trail near Grand Marais. First time I ever saw one! Heavy rain earlier in the day.

Posted by: mick - Lake Kangas
on: 2016-08-10 13:21:49

A friend pointed out the Ghost Plant to me, on a walk toward a hiking trail of Superior National Forest not far east of the lake. The lake is in the vicinity of Wolf Ridge near Finland, MN

Posted by: Kit - Norway Pine grove near Nisswa
on: 2016-08-15 11:50:37

We saw several clusters this morning, August 15, 2016.

Posted by: Andy - North East Cook County
on: 2016-08-19 00:18:56

found by lake next to a rotting log not to far from a white pine

Posted by: JF - Tettegouche State Park
on: 2016-08-25 12:01:53

Two Step Falls trail in Tettegouche State park

Posted by: Judith - Chubb Lake, Farmington, MN
on: 2016-08-30 15:36:50

Found this plant in the "fruiting" stage last week at Chubb Lake where we were visiting friends who own property on this lake. I have a picture to verify. Judie

Posted by: Karin - Cannon Falls
on: 2016-09-04 20:19:14

Found many clusters (> 40 in several locations) under oaks and maples on our farm near Sogn Valley in Goodhue County.

Posted by: Cynthia - Kilen Woods State Park, Lakefield MN
on: 2016-09-05 07:35:40

The campground host and I saw Indian Pipe along the trail, just off the trail actually. I have taken photos and posted to the Minnesota State Parks website. I observed them 9/03/16.

Posted by: Tina - Breezy Point
on: 2017-05-18 16:32:33

I had this in my backyard in 2014. I didn't know what it was at the time and ended up mowing over it. I've looked for it on our property every summer since and haven't found it.

Posted by: Dawn - Pine City MN
on: 2017-07-24 09:38:28

Thinking this was some type of mushroom I took some photos of this and sent them to MN Conservation Volunteer. They informed me it is a wild flower and not a mushroom. They are really cool!

Posted by: Katie R - Belle Prairie County Park, Morrison County
on: 2017-07-25 16:40:50

Belle Prairie Park is situated within the Anoka County Sandplain. The park is managed by Morrison County in partnership with Great River Greening in an effort to restore oak savanna. As a lifelong resident of the area, today was the first time I've seen Indian Pipe growing at this location.

Posted by: Joanne G - Spring Grove (far southeast corner of Minnesota
on: 2017-07-27 12:39:22

Our woods are north facing, dense, and full of springs. I was searching for new specimens of fungi and I ran across a single Indian pipe plant. There probably are more.

Posted by: Christine F - Ely
on: 2017-08-03 13:18:37

I found them on a side trail near the Trezona.

Posted by: Kathy - Pequaywan Lake Northeastern Minnesota
on: 2017-08-06 09:39:00

We have quite a few Indian Pipe plants in our backyard. The first time I noticed them was about four years ago. They have not came up every year. When they dry up they turn black. The dried up ones from last year are still standing.

Posted by: Mary - Baxter
on: 2017-08-20 19:04:13

I have a lot of this in my yard right now, never saw it before and suddenly it's coming up in patches all over the place. Spectacular. We have sandy soil, well shaded, heavily vegetated with jack pine, red pine, and hazelnut. Also plenty of puff ball mushrooms this year, other fungi I've never seen before.

Posted by: Jon - Detroit Lakes
on: 2017-08-24 10:44:09

I came across a tight cluster of about 12 by the side of the path that I have walked for 50 years, never seen these before. I have good pictures.

Posted by: Barb s - Superior National Forest, Bass Lake Trail, Dry Lake Loop.
on: 2017-08-24 19:49:03

Very interesting looking plant,kind of alien looking. Caught our attention!

Posted by: Beth J - Mankato
on: 2017-09-04 00:03:04

Top of a section of ravine behind Minnesota State University, Mankato. Not too far from a mowed area into a mix of hardwood and cedar.

Posted by: Tina C - Grand Portage State Park
on: 2017-09-19 10:10:45

We saw two of these near the boardwalk on our way back from a hike and not far from the visitors canter. They were in the thick of the forest undergrowth yet very visible!

Posted by: Blake - Lutsen
on: 2017-09-24 19:16:44

Noticed this little beauty on the ski trails in Cascade River State Park in late September. They were growing in a very wet forested area.

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