Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora)


Monotropa-uniflora-2013-07-15-Mount-Lebanon-03Indian Pipes are strange little plants that have no chlorophyll. They get their food by theft: they steal it from little fungi in a process called myco-heterotrophy. It was formerly believed that they were saprophytes, gaining their nutrition by breaking down decaying matter, but apparently they find it more convenient to employ fungi to do the hard work. Since they have no chlorophyll, they have no particular need for light; and they are often found deep in the woods. These, however, grew under a maple tree in a shady lawn in Mount Lebanon, where they were blooming in the middle of July.

Gray describes the genus and the species,which he puts in the section Eumonotropa or Monotropa proper:

MONÓTROPA L. INDIAN PIPE, PINESAP. Calyx of 2-5 lanceolate bract-like scales, deciduous. Corolla of erect spatulate or wedge-shaped scale-like petals, which are gibbous or saccate at the base, and tardily deciduous. Stamens 8 or 10; filaments awl-shaped; anthers becoming 1-celled. Style columnar; stigma disk-like, 4-5-rayed. Capsule ovoid, 8-10-grooved, 4-5-celled, loculicidal; the very thick placentae covered with innumerable minute seeds, which have a very loose coat. — Low and fleshy herbs, tawny, reddish, or white, parasitic on roots, or growing on decomposing vegetable matter; the clustered stems springing from a ball of matted fibrous rootlets, furnished with scales or bracts in place of leaves, 1-several-flowered; the summit at first nodding, in fruit erect. (Name composed of monos, one, and tropos, turn, the summit of the stem being turned to one side.)

§ 1. EUMONÓTROPA Gray. Plant inodorous, 1-flowered; calyx of 2-4 irregular scales or bracts; anthers transverse, opening equally by 2 chinks; style short and thick.

M. uniflora L. (Indian Pipe, Corpse Plant.) Smooth, waxy-white, flesh-color, or rarely deep red, turning blackish in drying. 0.6-3 dm. high; stigma naked. — Dark and rich woods, nearly throughout the continent. June-Aug. (Мех., Asia.)

3 responses

  1. Helen Austin

    Will a start of a tomato plant root if I stick it in water? I just broke off a tip and wonder if I should throw it away or hope it’ll root? Helen in Petaluma, California

    July 21, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    • Dr. Boli

      It can’t hurt to try.

      July 21, 2013 at 9:54 pm

  2. Pingback: Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora) | Flora Pittsburghensis

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