Indian Pipe

(Monotropa uniflora)

Other Names:
Ghost pipe, corpse plant


Monotropaceae – Indian Pipe family

Growth Type:
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 color

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.

Flower Season:
Early Summer to early Autumn

Flower Appearance:
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

Miscellaneous characteristics:
The plant associates with a small range of fungal hosts, all of them members of Russulaceae family.

Rich soils of soils of upland beech maple woods, ravines, thickets, slopes, ridges

Parts Used:
Entire plant

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 hallucinogenic properties.

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.

Medicinal Uses:
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.

Medicinal Actions:
Analgesic, Anticonvulsant, Antiepileptic, Antinociceptive, Antispasmodic, Nervine, Relaxant, Sedative, Tonic