Indian Pipes – Monotropa uniflora

Indian Pipes

About 1/3 of our acre is left natural. In the woods at the base of a rotted tree stump I found these plants. As ghostly as they look, they need the moist duskiness of the woods to grow. These plant carry many names…Ghost plant, Indian Pipes, Corpse Plant…all of them are very descriptive!

It was on my 59th birthday that Gaia gave me the wonderful gift of sighting these rare beauties. I had learned about these very rare plants back when I was 12 years old and at Girl Scout Camp…. I never really expected to see them. You can imagine my surprise when I found these in my backyard!

This plant lacks chlorophyll. It gains its nutrients from a relationship with a fungus and with a tree. It either takes what it needs from a decaying stump (as mine is) or from a fungus that has attached itself to a tree. Many fungi and trees have this type of relationship — it’s called a “mycorrhizal relationship,” but the introduction of another plant into the chain is unusual.

In the past this plant was eaten, it reportedly tastes like asparagus when cooked, or tasteless when raw. The Cherokee Indians of North America pulverized the root and gave it for the treatment of epilepsy and convulsions. When it is made into a tincture, the color of the tincture is a dark blue, and the smell is like pickling vinegar!

It is not the regular garden plant, but I think I will keep the natural section of the yard for gifts like this one!

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