Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Indian Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora)

I've been wanting to see a unusual type of plant called Indian Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora), also known as Ghost Plant or Corpse Plant, for awhile now, and this week we saw it, and plus we also a relative in the same genus called Pinesap.  When we saw the plants, they were in a forest at a park, off to the side of the trail.

We saw Indian Pipe on a walk on Sunday. We were talking through the forest at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, WA, and Windchime called out excitedly, "Mom!" When I went back and looked, there it was. . . Indian Pipe. :)



Then yesterday we went for a walk at Banner Forest Heritage Park in Port Orchard, WA, and we saw a plant that looked to me very much like Indian Pipe, but it was red! I looked it up later and found that apparently there are both white and read Indian Pipes, and at first I thought it was an Indian Pipe.  Here's what the Wikipedia entry on Indian Pipe, Monotropa uniflora, says:
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. The complex relationship that allows this plant to grow also makes propagation difficult.
The plant is sometimes completely white but commonly has black flecks and a pale pink coloration. Rare variants may have a deep red color.
The stems reach heights of 10–30 cm, clothed with small scale-leaves 5–10 mm long. As its scientific name suggests, and unlike the related Monotropa hypopitys (but like the closely related Monotropastrum humile), the stems bear only a single flower, 10–15 mm long with 3-8 petals. It flowers from early summer to early autumn.
It's important to note that Indian Pipe has only a single flower.  Pinesap has 1-11 flowers.  Also, Indian Pipe can be white, commonly has black flecks, pale pink, and rare variants may be deep red, while Pinesap are, according to Wikipedia, "pale yellowish white to reddish-tinged." Here's some more info from Wikipedia about Pinesap, Monotropa hypopitys:  
Plants are fleshy and grow 10–35 cm tall. True stems are nonexistent. Instead, the only part which emerges from the soil are unbranched adventitious inflorescences which are developmentally similar to adventitious roots. All parts of the plant are pale yellowish white to reddish-tinged. The bracts are 5–10 mm long scale-like structures, which cover most of the inflorescence. Plants flower from April to December depending on the geographic region (June to September in North America). The flowers are pendulous when young, but become erect when they begin to mature into the fruit which is a capsule. The flowers are 9–12 mm long and produced in a cluster of 1–11 together at the apex of the inflorescence, which is a raceme. It flowers between early summer and mid autumn; plants that flower in summer are yellow and sparsely hairy, while those that flower in autumn are red and densely hairy. These two color "forms" overlap in flowering time. It has been suggested that yellow individuals are largely self-pollinating.



I had to update this post, and I'm going to probably come back and edit this post more as I understand these plants better.  If anyone has anything you'd like to share about these plants, please comment!  If you can verify if the first plants pictured are Indian Pipe and the second ones are Pinesap, I'd be grateful.  

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