Appalachia Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Indian Pipe

indian pipe, corpse plant, ghost plant

Indian pipe noun A white, leafless flowering wild plant (Monotropa Uniflora) having a single, pipe-shaped blossom. Same as corpse flower, ghostflower, ghost plant.
1937 Thornborough Great Smoky Mts 23 Less conspicuous are . . . Indian pipe or ghostflower, with it fragile, leafless, pipe-shaped blossoms, from which it is said the Indians made a lotion for strengthening the eyes. 1982 Stupka Wildflowers As it is entirely lacking in chlorophyll, Indian pipe is white throughout—flower, stem, and leaves—and has a succulent wax-like appearance.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

Indian Pipe

This must be the time of the year to spot Indian Pipe in the woods. It seemed like we saw the plant every where we looked on our recent hike.

Indian Pipe act as a sort of parasite feeding on the nutrients that have been digested by tree roots or nutrients from decaying plant matter in the form of rotting logs or stumps. Once the plant finishes it’s growing season the pipes turn completely black almost looking like burnt matchsticks. If you pick a Indian Pipe it will also soon turn black.

The nodding flowers of the plant amazingly raise their heads to the sky in a last hurrah of sorts to make sure their seeds are broadcast to ensure the next generation of Indian Pipes are born the following year.

The plant was used in medicinal remedies ranging from curing colds and fevers to removing warts.

Interesting in relation to the alternate names of Corpse or Death plant it was said to heal the broken heart of those mourning the loss of a loved one.

Tipper

Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like

11 Comments

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 3, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    I’ve been all day trying to remember what we called them things. I know pipe was part of it but for the life of me can’t remember the rest. I’ll think of it some day when I least expect it. Til then it’ll have to be what you call it, an Indian Pipe.

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    June 3, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    It grew in the woods of North Ga. where I grew up. I added it to a flower collection in high school. My teacher commented on it’s unusual beauty, but said it was an herb???
    I was recently reacquainted with it on a hike along the Oconaluftee River. Never knew the history behind it. Thanks for sharing! I am intrigued by all things native.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    June 3, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    hiya dear tipper
    i would love to be able to take a walk with you and the girls and explore. ive never seen indian pipes before…so unique.
    i have to laugh tho…as when i use my breathing treatment i say im smoking my peace pipe…lol
    glad the sun is shining
    stay well…
    sending love and ladybug hugs
    lynn

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 3, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Tipper,
    I looked at “you might also like” and saw in 2012 a picture of a girl walking across a bridge or Footlog. I finally recognized where it was, and it was my Footlog across Worm Creek here at the Shop.

    When it rains, and it does about every 3 or 4 days for a time, the Footlog or Bridge straightens right up, and I had a friend who made me a fish pond, right at that tree to the right. The backhoe man got too close to that tree and it has fallen toward where I use to have a Garden. It use to be as smooth as a baby’s butt.

    A couple of strong friends brought two freshly dipped in Cresote Light Poles and placed them and I floored them. This was many years ago when I could bend over. (I hurt my back and have never been the same, working on my Mountain Water.) That ended My Gardening and I miss it. …Ken

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    June 3, 2020 at 9:14 am

    I’ve never seen it, but I will keep a lookout for it when we go to our camper. Lots of woods around us.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    June 3, 2020 at 9:06 am

    Seems like when you see one, you will soon see a hundred close by. I notice them mostly growing in the shade and around rotten trees. I never knew what they were called until I read your interesting post.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 3, 2020 at 8:17 am

    My Mom was always thrilled to find Indian pipe. Growing up, we did not see it very often. I am reminded of her when I see it. She was the one who made me want to be able to identify all the plants in the woods and fields.

    I did not know the folklore about Indian pipe. The one about healing the broken hearts is especially interesting since it seems the opposite of what one might expect from Ghost Pipes. There was at one time an idea called ‘Signatures’ which held that plants revealed what they were useful for by one or more of their characteristics. For example, kidney-shaped leaves meant good for the kidneys. I guess the connection was from ‘ghost’ to ‘loss’ to ‘sorrow’.

    I have seen Indian pipe with a pinkish cast but not deep enough to call them pink.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    June 3, 2020 at 7:58 am

    I learned something new here and I cannot recollect if I’ve seen Indian Pipe before but I will be looking for it now. How very interesting and exciting!!!!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    June 3, 2020 at 7:35 am

    I’ve seen this flower many times through much time spent in the woods. Always thought of it as poisonous and best left alone. After looking it up it has many medicinal uses and some people eat it cooked and claim it taste like asparagus. One reference said it was mildly toxic to eat. I probably wouldn’t eat it but wouldn’t care to make a medicine from it.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 3, 2020 at 6:31 am

    I’ve seen that plant many times and never thought much about it. My mind just put it in the mushroom category and forgot it. It certainly is a lovely delicate plant.

  • Reply
    Carol
    June 3, 2020 at 6:23 am

    Great article!

  • Leave a Reply