Plant Identification – Monotropa uniflora, or Ghost plant, or Indian Pipe


Found growing in sand in a school playground. Never seen them grow there before. We are in Alberta Canada


Greetings,  Alberta: your unusual plant is found across North America, in moist woody areas. It would be interesting to note where in the schoolyard this Monotropa uniflora, or Ghost plant, or Indian Pipe is located.

Indian pipe is here in Ontario as well. What is unusual about it is the fact that it does not rely on photosynthesis, and has no chlorophyll. Not a fungus, it does rely on fungi and other mycorrhizal forms to nurture it. The flowers are pollinated by bees sometime in late May. The other interesting fact about this plant is that it seldom occurs again in the same spot, because the seeds are dispersed by wind.

The plant is often used medicinally to heal wounds, treat convulsions and epileptic seizures.

For further reading, we recommend Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, or Peterson’s Field Guide to Wildflowers.