Hypopitys monotropa (Pinesap)

Plant Info
Also known as: False Beech Drops, Yellow Bird's-Nest
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist rich woods, usually acidic soil, often under pines
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:4 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Flowers are about ½ inch long with 5 petals and look tubular but the petals are not fused. Color can be pale creamy white, yellow, coral pink, tan or reddish, this often being a regional variation. All parts also quickly turn brown from bruising and the dry air. A raceme of 2 to 11 flowers emerges from the axils of frail accompaning leaves, starting near the base all the way to the stem tip. Upon emerging from the ground, the flowers hang bell-like. 

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. The entire plant is faintly hairy and generally about the same color as the flowers—pale creamy white, yellow, coral pink, tan, reddish or brown.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] During seed set and maturation the flowers swing up, ending up with erect seed capsules. The dried stalk and seed capsules often persist into the next growing season


Pinesap, formerly Monotropa hypopitys (or misspelled M. hypopithys), can be found throughout almost all of North America but it is not encountered frequently. In Minnesota it is fairly limited to our north central and north eastern counties. Like its close relative, Monotropa uniflora (Indian Pipe) it produces no chlorophyll and like fungi, is not dependent upon light and can thrive in very shady 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 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 by Peter M. Dziuk taken at Savanna Portage State Park


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

Posted by: Cheryl S - Eden Prairie, Hennipen County
on: 2016-09-21 16:50:25

I found it in 3 locations in my yard. I can supply a picture from one location. My property includes a "woodland", which I currently in the process of restoring.

Posted by: Gary - Cook County
on: 2018-11-23 18:46:16

In a white cedar swamp on mossy root hummocks.

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