Monotropa uniflora

Monotropa uniflora, also known as ghost plant (or ghost pipe), Indian pipe or corpse plant, is an herbaceous perennial plant native to temperate regions of Asia, North America and northern South America, but with large gaps between areas.[1][2] The plant is sometimes completely waxy white, but often has black flecks or pale pink coloration.[3] Rare variants may have a deep red color.

Monotropa uniflora
Indian pipe PDB.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Monotropa
M. uniflora
Binomial name
Monotropa uniflora

Taxonomy and backgroundEdit

It was formerly classified in the family Monotropaceae, but is now included within the Ericaceae. It is of ephemeral occurrence, depending on the right conditions (moisture after a dry period) to appear full grown within a couple of days.

Unlike most plants, it is white and does not contain chlorophyll. Instead of generating energy from sunlight, it is parasitic, and more specifically a mycoheterotroph. 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. It is often associated with beech trees.[4] The complex relationship that allows this plant to grow also makes propagation difficult.

Like most mycoheterotrophic plants, M. uniflora associates with a small range of fungal hosts, all of them members of Russulaceae.[5]


The stems reach heights of 5–30 centimetres (2.0–11.8 in), sheathed with highly reduced leaves 5–10 millimetres (0.20–0.39 in) long, best identified as scales or bracts. These structures are small, thin, and translucent; they do not have petioles but instead extend in a sheath-like manner out of the stem.

As its scientific name suggests, and unlike the related Monotropa hypopitys (but like the close relation Monotropastrum humile), the stems bear a single flower 10–20 millimetres (0.39–0.79 in) long, with 3–8 translucent petals, 10–12 stamens and a single pistil.[6][7][8][9] It flowers from early summer to early autumn, often a few days after rainfall. The fruit, an oval capsule-like structure, enlarges and becomes upright when the seeds mature, at this point stem and capsule looking desiccated and dark brown or black.


The plant has been used as a nervine (anxiolytic) in western herbal medicine since the late nineteenth century.[10]



  1. ^ Neyland, Ray; Hennigan, Melissa K. (2004). "A Cladistic analysis of Monotropa uniflora (Ericaceae) inferred from large ribosomal subunit (26S) rRNA gene sequences". Castanea. 69 (4): 265–271. doi:10.2179/0008-7475(2004)069<0265:ACAOMU>2.0.CO;2.
  2. ^ Sullivan, Steven. K. (2018). "Monotropa uniflora". Wildflower Search. Retrieved 2018-08-19.
  3. ^ David Matthews "Indian Pipes, Ithaca NY" Archived 2012-09-05 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^
  5. ^ Yang, S.; Pfister, D. H. (2006). "Monotropa uniflora plants of eastern Massachusetts form mycorrhizae with a diversity of russulacean fungi". Mycologia. 98 (4): 535–540. doi:10.3852/mycologia.98.4.535. PMID 17139846.
  6. ^ Klinkenberg, Brian (Editor) (2017). "Monotropa uniflora". E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia []. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Retrieved 2018-08-19.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Giblin, David (Editor) (2018). "Monotropa uniflora". WTU Herbarium Image Collection. Burke Museum, University of Washington. Retrieved 2018-08-19.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Monotropa uniflora". in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora. Jepson Herbarium; University of California, Berkeley. 2018. Retrieved 2018-08-19.
  9. ^ "Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) Species Page". Retrieved 2018-07-06.
  10. ^ Wickes Felter, Harvey; Uri Lloyd, John (1898). King's American dispensatory (19th 3rd rev ed.). Ohio Valley Co. p. 1277.

External linksEdit