The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Indian Pipes

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1984-2012

Issue: June, 1984

indian pipesIllustration by Susan M. Thigpen.Many of the prettiest and most unusual woods plants and wildflowers of our area are so small that only a very observant person will notice them. This month's plant is one of the easily over looked, but fascinating ones.

Indian Pipes are small plants that usually grow in thinly scattered clusters and may be seen from June through August. It is unique in that the plant is solid white due to a total lack of chlorophyll. It has a fleshy, wax-like stem with scale-like leaves. There is one flower at the top, nodding downward. After blossoming the seed capsule turns black and becomes erect. The stem is usually about 5 inches tall but I have seen many only 3 or 4 inches tall.

It derives all it's nourishment from decayed vegetable matter in the soil. Indian Pipes are also called "ghost flower" or "corpse plant."