Ghost Pipe, Corpse Plant
– Indian Pipe family
This herbaceous perennial is one of
the few saprophyte plants, meaning that it contains no chlorophyll. It lives
parasitically from mycelium which in turn are living off the roots
of their host hardwood trees such as Beech and Maple. 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 plant
blackens as it ages.
The stems reach heights of 4 - 12 in,
clothed with small scale-like leaves 1/10 - 1/3 in long.
Small alternate clear to whitish in
The white to pinkish or reddish tubular
stem comes up from the roots and terminates at a drooping
scale like leaf pipe, hence the name Indian Pipe.
The plant has the oddest root I have ever seen, more like an
amorphous collection of cells than a root.
It flowers from early summer to early
As its scientific name suggests, and
the stems bear one single flower, 1/3 - 1/2 in long with 3 -
6 petals, sometimes united, and 6 - 12 stamens.
Matures into a capsule.
The plant associates with a
small range of fungal hosts, all of them members
of Russulaceae family.
Rich soils of soils of upland woods, ravines, thickets, slopes,
Wild Food Uses:
The aerial parts of the plant can be eaten raw or cooked. I find the
plant to have an unpleasant taste when eaten
raw, but when it is cooked, the plant
tastes a bit like asparagus. I would caution eating this plant in
anything but small amounts, as it contains a glycoside which can be
poisonous if eaten in quantity. The plant is also said to possess
The following text is
meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or
treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other
qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of
any illness or injury.
Both Native American healers and
white doctors used this plant at least till the early twentieth
century. The juice mixed with rose water was used as a wash for eye
problems. This ophthalmic use was apparently quite common and
thought highly effective. Sores on other tender tissue were also
treated with this solution. It was also considered a sedative and
antispasmodic and so used to treat fits and convulsions such as
occurs in epilepsy. It was considered a good substitute for opium
in many cases.
This plant helps alleviate pain, however, calling it
a pain reliever is a misnomer. It does not relieve pain, but
rather reduces your bodies sensitivity to painful stimuli. You
still feel the pain, but it no longer bothers you. It is an excellent substitute for the pain relieving effects of
opium without the mind altering effects, or the opiate fog.