A creation in white wax set among the ferns and mosses, the Indian pipe on a Late summer day puts a special quality of excitement in the woods. Devoid of all color, the strange, brittle-looking pipes stand motionless and unreal. It is as if they are spectres from another world, ghost plants of the forest. No other colorless plants seem to possess exactly the atmosphere of mystery as Indian pipe does in its chosen and unexpected spot.
Monotropa unifloca L.
August - September Woods.
The Indians said that wherever the Indian pipe sprang up, an Indian once paused to shake out the white ashes from his pipe.
Indian pipe is a saprophyte, not a parasite as are the cancer root and squawroot. It lives on dead material in the ground, usually dead wood buried in the rich, soft humus of deep woods. From this there rise the curled-over white stalks with their pipe-like blossoms. These are composed of many white, overlapping scales surrounding a chaste, vase-shaped pistil and dark stamens. The stems are pure white with a few alternate white scales upon them instead of leaves. Indian pipe has no true leaves and no particle of greenness. Occasionally there is a hint of pale pink or red in (lower or stem, but usually it is that stark, ice-white which, as the plant ages, slowly blackens. At first only the scales and parts of the Bower are tipped with accents of ebony. Then slowly the ripening flower stands erect and the whole plant turns black. It stands there drying, the brown seed pod remaining in the original vase shape of the pistil, stands all through the autumn and winter, and lasts well into the coming spring.