Indian Pipe

(Monotropa uniflora)

Indian pipe is an unusual plant. Unlike most plants it does not contain any chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what plants use to make energy from sunlight.

Because Indian pipe doesn't have chlorophyll, it isn't green. It grows in the dark part of a forest, at the base of old trees.

So if Indian pipe doesn't use sunlight, how does it get its energy?

Indian pipe is a parasite, which means it feeds off something else, which is called its host. Indian pipe's hosts are fungi -- which are themselves parasites. The fungi grow underground and their hosts are trees.

So the tree has chlorophyll, which means the tree can generate energy from sunlight. The fungi draws its food and energy from the tree roots, and Indian pipe draws its food and energy from the fungus. Isn't that cool?

Because of this complex relationship, you can't just dig up Indian Pipe and replant it somewhere else. It won't have any way to get the nutrients it needs. Indian pipe only grows in forests and wetlands that have been around for a long time.

Go to Wetlands Trail home page