Ghost Plant, Indian Pipe, Corpse Plant
Facts & Folkore:
Monotropa uniflora, also commonly known as the ghost plant, Indian pipe, or corpse plant, is a herbaceous perennial plant native to temperate regions of Udmurtiya in European Russia, Asia, North America and northern South America, but with large gaps between areas. Unlike most plants, it is white and does not contain chlorophyll. Instead of generating energy from sunlight, it is parasitic, more specifically a myco-heterotroph. 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. The plant is sometimes completely white but commonly has black flecks and a pale pink coloration. Rare variants may have a deep red color. America’s eminent poet, Emily Dickinson, called the Indian pipe “the preferred flower of life.” In a letter to Mabel Todd, she confides, “I still cherish the clutch with which I bore it from the ground when a wondering child, and unearthly booty, and maturity only enhances the mystery, never decreases it.”
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