Ghost plant


This somewhat uncommon flower has given me a great deal of trouble. It wasn’t due to the behaviour of the flower itself, which is unusual, but straight forward. It was due to the name it has had: the Indian pipe. For reasons of the inappropriateness of the word Indian, various sources have changed it to ghost pipe or to ghost plant. Presumably, a ghost being an imaginary creature, does not have a particularly vocal constituency. But, what about the second word: pipe or plant. Now, Indians can have a pipe, ghosts are never illustrated this way. Alas, there is more that one species of plant called the ghost plant. Oh well, ghost plant will do. (Avoid the problem and look it up with its scientific name of Monotropa uniflora.)

The ghost plant begins its life being white. It has no chlorophyll and so does not capture energy from the sun. It therefore lives at the bottom of a thick canopy of trees and is parasitic on ground fungi of the Russulaceae family. 

I watched for it in mid-July. The attached picture was taken soon after they appeared. It will now grow black splotches and its flowers will switch from hanging down to looking up. It is pollinated by bumble bees.


This entry was posted in wildflowers. Bookmark the permalink.