Indian pipe plant uses

Indian Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora)

Read full proving: Indian Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora)
Read proving physical symptoms: Monotropa Uniflora Physicals

About the plant

A Plant Reclassified Into the Family Ericaceae.

The Indian Pipe was originally classified into the family Monotropaceae, but after further research was reclassified to be included in the Ericaceae family of plants (heaths). Heaths are herbs, shrubs and trees that thrive in acidic soil, like cranberry, blueberry, azalea and rhododendron, and are known to have the same kind of relationship with mychorrhizal fungi.

Since Indian Pipe has no chlorophyll, it cannot photosynthesise its own food like most plants. Therefore, it has to obtain nutrients from another organism. The way it does this is by having its roots tap into the mycelia of a fungus. Meanwhile, the fungus’s mycelia tap into the host-tree’s roots. Many fungi and trees have this type of relationship – it’s called a “mycorrhizal relationship.” These plants are classed as “epiparasite” or “mycoheterophyte.” The plant benefits by more efficient mineral (especially phosphorus) uptake. The fungus benefits by the sugars translocated to the root by the plant. Both organisms help each other out. Indian Pipe, however, does not appear to give anything back to the fungus or the tree. It takes nutrients from the fungus that it had received from the tree. Since the fungus then has to take more nutrients from the tree, this makes Indian Pipe a parasite of both the fungus and the tree.

Botanical Source and Description
Indian pipe plant has a dark-colored, fibrous, perennial root, matted in masses about as large as a chestnut-burr, from which arise one or more short, ivory-white stems, 4 to 8 inches high, furnished with sessile, lanceolate, white, semi-transparent, approximate leaves or bracts, and bearing a large, white, terminal, solitary flower, which is at first nodding, like a downward facing smokers pipe, but becomes upright in fruit. The calyx is represented by two to four scale-like deciduous bracts, the lower rather distant from the corolla. The corolla is permanent, of 5 distinct, erect, fleshy petals, which are narrowed below with a small, nectariferous pit at the base. Stamens 10, sometimes 8; anthers short on the thickened apex of the hairy filament, 2-celled, opening by transverse chinks. Stigma 5-crenate, depressed, and beardless. Pod or capsule 5-celled and 5-valved; the seeds numerous, and invested with an arillus-like membrane (W. G. Eaton).

History and Chemical Composition
This is a singular plant, found in various parts of the USA from Maine to Carolina, and westward to Missouri, growing in shady woods, in rich, moist soil, or soil composed, of decayed wood and leaves, and near the base of trees. The whole plant is ivory-white in all its parts, resembling frozen jelly, and is very succulent and tender, so much so that when handled it dissolves and melts away in the hands like ice. The flowers are inodorous, and appear from June until September; their resemblance to a pipe has given rise to the names Indian pipe or Pipe-plant. The root is the part used; it should be gathered in September and October, carefully dried, pulverized, and kept in well-stoppered bottles. A. J. M. Lasché (Pharm. Rundschau, 1889, p. 208) has found in this plant a crystallizable poisonous principle, which also occurs in several other ericaceous plants; it is named andromedotoxin (C31H51O10).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage
Indian pipe root is a tonic, sedative, nervine, and antispasmodic. It has also been employed in febrile diseases, as a sedative and diaphoretic. The powder has been employed in instances of restlessness, pains, nervous irritability, etc., as a substitute for opium, without any deleterious influences. It is reputed to have cured remittent and intermittent fevers, and to be an excellent antiperiodic. In convulsions of children, epilepsy, chorea, and other spasmodic affections, its administration has been followed with prompt success; hence its common name Fit or Convulsion root. The juice of the plant, alone, or combined with rose water, has been found to be an excellent application for obstinate ophthalmic inflammation, to ulcers, and as an injection in gonorrhoea, inflammation and ulceration of the bladder. Dose of the powdered root is from 1/2 to 1 drachm, 2 or 3 times a day.

It has also been employed in cases of acute anxiety and/or psychotic episodes due to intense drug experiences. The herbal preparation of aerial parts given 1-3 1ml doses has in numerous cases given quick relief to these episodes within 15-30 minutes, at which time the patient falls asleep to awake calm and clear hours later. It seems in these cases, a repressed traumatic memory emerges from the depths of the subconscious, putting the person into a state of emotional and/or sensory overload. It has been used effectively in treating severe mental and emotional pain due to PTSD and other traumatic injury, as well as severe nerve pain due to Lyme disease.

There is a Cherokee legend about the Indian Pipe: Long ago, when selfishness first entered the world, people began quarreling, first with their own families and tribal members, and then with other tribes. The chiefs of the several tribes met together to try to solve the problem of quarreling. They smoked a peace pipe together, while continuing to quarrel among themselves for the next seven days and seven nights. In punishment for smoking the peace pipe before actually making peace, the Great Spirit turned the chiefs into grey flowers and made them grow where relatives and friends had quarreled.

Monotropa’s proving

When Misha Norland first came across Monotropa in woods in Vermont USA, he was immediately struck by its appearance: a ghostly apparition; white shrouds on leafy floor of dim woodland. Closer inspection revealed a translucent flower and stem emerging from the ground, completely lacking green; a parasite for sure. He picked a few and was amazed by the structure’s lack of density; the plants collapsed in his hands almost as if they had melted. Being prepared to bag whatever he found, he placed all that was above ground in a bottle he carried for just such a purpose. Here the plants quickly blackened. When he returned home a few hours later he added vodka for preservation, ready for later potentisation.

At the time he did not know that herbalists find the roots the most medicinally active part of the plant, or else he would doubtlessly have taken these. However, it is usually found that all parts of a plant are in fact medicinal, just that some parts, like root or bark or seeds predominantly concentrate one or another active ingredient. When potentised, the difference in strength of individual parts loses significance, for it is the quality of the entire plant, rather than the quantity of active ingredients in specific parts, that matters.

Certainly the proving brought out a wealth of characteristics. The tincture was run up to 30c potency in the classroom (substance unknown to provers), with provers taking turns at dilution and sucussion, using Korsicovian methodology. The final potency of 30c was used as the proving dose. As is our custom at the School of Homeopathy, just one dose was taken, proving diaries and daily supervision, commencing from this point, and continuing for two months.

Miasm
The prominent miasm is the AIDS miasm. This is because the boundary issue is paramount. For Indian Pipe to survive it needs to become confluent with the mycelium of fungus, that in turn becomes confluent with tree roots for its nutrition. Also the structure above ground looses its boundary and melts away when handled. Hence its other names, ghost plant, corpse plant, wax plant. The feeling of having no boundaries between oneself and the world, of being vulnerable, naked and exposed is perhaps the most basic feeling of the AIDS nosode, and its opposite state, of feeling isolated, alone and cast out. In Indian pipe, vulnerable boundaries, loss of direction, disconnection, confusion, and not belonging to family or group oppose fortification of boundaries, sense of direction, connection, clarity and confrontation leading to resolution. There are, of course Cancer miasm themes, but these seem secondary and of a compensatory nature.

Vital Senation
Writing about the family Ericaceae, Rajan Sankaran states the following: need to move from one place to another; wandering; extension; change. Jan Scholten writing about Ericales (newer Cronquist classification) has this to say: they have the feeling they are only tolerated and are not really accepted anymore… they often live in poor conditions, which they can do as they do not need very much… they may long for recognition and compliments… in the end they can become bitter… they may see themselves as unimportant, taking no place, having few needs, offering themselves for others. This echoes Edward Bach’s indications for the flower remedy Heather. In ‘the twelve healers’, he states: for loneliness, those who are always seeking companionship of anyone who may be available, as if they find it necessary to discuss their own affairs with others… In these latter respects we find powerful resonances with Indian pipe with its issues of being tapped in, carried by the flow, and its opposite state of being blocked, of having the flow cut off, feeling isolated, numbed-out, alienated. And because Indian pipe is an epiparasitic Eracales, and relies completely on its hosts for nutrition, the indications given by Edward Bach for Heather seem to be amplified.

The proving revealed another strand running alongside that of Ericaceae, that seems to be related to the plant’s mycorrhizal relationship. It is of course, the fungal theme of invasion and expansion, as well as issues like dependence on water, decomposition, and dissolution. The vital sensation that Rajan Sankaran derives from Fungi is invading, burrowing, digging, excoriating, and eroding. Dreams of underground tubes and tunnels, basements, burrowing, rising high and diving deep were consistent Monotropa proving themes. The consensus in this proving experience was that when it is possible to push through these dark, lurking unpleasant truths and “bring them up into the light” we can reconnect and become one again with Source.

Michal Yakir writes
(The full version is given in the attached appendix) the remedy displays the Ericales themes:

  • Obligation to give to the family, which becomes a liability; surrender to the family’s dictates.
  • Anxiety for health, need to be taken care of, dependant.
  • Alienated and rejected from family and nurture, oppressed and imprisoned by the family unit.
  • Coming into own fruition, seeking recognition outside the family. Creativity issues.
  • Domineering, emasculating feminine; male-reproductive pathology; tumours and growth.
  • Obstructed and rigid, with male sexual organ pathology. Even emasculating feelings.
  • Immobility, joints, rigidity, obstructed, resistance to change, or flowing and changing.

Dreams
(An analysis of the dreams and their significance has been written by Jane Tara Cicchetti and is presented in full in the appendix.)

The provers produced a prodigious number of dreams. There were approximately 232 dreams and possibly more as some were not identified as separate dreams, but put together with others.

The most frequently occurring powerful imagery was that of a being morphing from one state into another. Transvestites, cross dressing, drag queens, a child becomes a cat, a person dressed as a cow, human legs became super pistons and transforming, grotesquely, into a younger person.

In a similar category, there were images of new species created after this change had occurred. These included crows with Darth Vader heads, a slug/worm, Amish family with hippopotamus teeth; a human with horse or goat legs (Pan), a farm of animal/beings fused between human and animal, a man with ridiculously huge biceps.

Another group of images related to the brain. There at least 10 dreams where characters appeared with either autism, brain damage, or serious mental problems. There was one appearance of Downs syndrome.

There were quite a few images of elderly people and premature aging. Also several dreams contained images of autistic people in wheel chairs. Two dreams had an interesting reference to magnetic force.

Finally there were a few strong images of brutality, animal testing, and hypodermic syringes.

Mappa Mundi
Insubstantial plant (no chlorophyll), like a ghost, a parasite of a fungus.
Issues with boundaries. Flow v’s blocked.

Read full proving here: Indian Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora)

a cure for all things

I recently completed my apprenticeship with the Boston School of Herbal Studies, which culminated with the exchange of all the various herbal products that students had been making throughout the year. I had made a variety of tinctures (in a nutshell: by soaking herbs in a menstruum, typically vodka or apple cider vinegar, for an extended period) and I received a variety in return, as well as teas, salves, soaps, and even a mugwort, lavender, and flax seed eye pillow, which I am never very far from in bed.

One of my favorite gifts so far has been a tincture of Indian Pipe, Monotropa uniflora, a strange little plant that grows in the woods in the Northeast. It lacks chlorophyll so the entire plant is a ghostly white, and instead of growing to face the sun the flowers bend over towards the earth. We learned in class that it is used for pain and especially intense pain, but it can also be used to induce or support meditative and strange, but not unpleasant states. The tincture is an unusual violet shade, and the flavor reminds me of sweet dark soil. It’s also taken medicinally as a nervine, antispasmodic, febrifuge, and likely other things as well. The roots are used, and the flowers are notoriously delicate; they essentially disintegrate upon handling.

Indian Pipe in Massachusetts

I went for a walk in the woods a few months ago and kept spotting Indian Pipe. Herbalists believe that if one is drawn to a particular plant, then there’s something there worth exploring. Indian Pipe is hard to find if you don’t know what to look for, but my eyes kept falling on it. At one point I sat down with the plant quietly and just listened. There’s an idea in Islam that all plants and animals and even inanimate objects are engaged in the worship of God, that they are naturally in a state of pure submission (and various prophets and saints were acclaimed to have been able to tune into the speech and states of other created things), and that’s what I bring to these quiet little chats with plants. Believing that we are all here with a purpose, I asked the plant what it had to teach. The impression I got was one of black earth, the worms crawling inside, the secretive movements of life beyond what we could see and where we choose to look, and of connections between life and death. When I had the opportunity to try Indian Pipe as a tincture in class, I had a similar sense of the plant. I also had the feeling that my perception just sort of sat like a bird on my shoulder, and then went to the corner of the room and took in the space and conversations inside.

After weeks of constant work, I finally had a quiet few hours last night for prayers and zikr. I wanted to see what Indian Pipe could bring to this. In prayer, in ruku’, I kept thinking of these little plants bent over. It occurred to me that they are constantly in this state of ruku’, of acknowledging their smallness before the divine. This is the part of prayer where the words suhbhanna rabb al-adheem are recited, glorified is the Lord, The Greatest, and I thought of them whispering this. I also felt that I was surrounded by these plants, praying in congregation with them. It was a lovely vision. Throughout, I felt relaxed and clear and engaged.

It’s not something that I would want to use regularly, but I’m happy to have it on my shelf and in my life.

The Druid’s Garden

As I’ve mentioned throughout this series, the energetic land healing work that you do is largely based on the situation at hand–what is occurring, what has occurred, or what will occur. Sometimes, you are aware in advance that the land will be severely damaged or destroyed. Trees being cut down for new human structures, pipelines being put in the ground, new strip malls being built, new highways going in, scheduled logging, routine “cutting” of trees under power lines, massive surface mining operations and mountaintop removal, and much, much more are very common these days. Lands and waterways all over the place are under duress at present, and this kind of destruction is common in every corner of the world. Its one thing to hear about these issues, and its another thing to be directly confronted with them. Today’s post is going to look at what we can do to help energetically and physically with sites that are going to be destroyed. We’ll also briefly explore the self care strategies necessary for this kind of work. Today, we tackle what I consider to be the hardest situation of healing work: knowing that impending destruction will take place–and being willing to do something about it.

Note: Today’s post continues my land healing series, and if you haven’t read the earlier posts, I would strongly suggest you read them in order first, as this post builds on the previous ones and doesn’t explain terms that I’ve gone into depth with before. Here are links to the full series: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V.

Remember that THIS is why we heal the land!

Self Care Strategies, Mental Health, and Environmental Destruction

Going to a place that will be destroyed prior to its destruction, holding space for it, and witnessing the aftermath, is in my opinion one of the hardest situations to work with as a land healer. And so, before we can attend to the land, I want to briefly through the mental health implications of such work. Grist magazine recently ran a story on the mental health implications of mountaintop removal, one of the first stories I’ve ever seen on this topic. As the article suggests, the loss of “homeplace”, places where one grew up or is intimately connected with the land, has severe mental health consequences. Of particular note, high rates of clinical depression and higher rates of suicide are linked with such destruction. While the Grist article focused on mountaintop removal, other articles and studies have looked at the overall linkage to environmental destruction and mental health in places all over the globe; one study in Australia is of particular note. I don’t really think we need scientific studies to tell us how bad watching environmental destruction is firsthand is–however, maybe knowing there is scientific research helps us feel less “unbalanced” or “crazy” after working on such a site. What I really worry about are the people who feel nothing, the people who actively destroy.

The truth is, This is the really difficult stuff, the stuff you wish you didn’t have to see, the stuff you wish you didn’t have to experience. No amount of daily protective or energetic work takes away that pain and suffering that you feel as a witness. I just want to clarify that, and tell you that it’s OK to feel this way. As I wrote about last week, part of what we have to do is start acknowledging, paying attention, and holding space. It’s also OK if you feel you can’t handle something, or if you have to step back for a bit. This stuff is overwhelming at times (especially depending on where you live). I’ve been feeling a bit unbalanced in this regard since coming back to PA because of the many kinds of destruction here present: logging, fracking, mountaintop removal, acid mine runoff, factory pollution–to name a few. Its hard to deal with seeing this stuff everywhere, often, and even trying to go into a natural place free of fracking wells, for example, is a difficult thing to do.

Given this, its important that as we do various healing work on sites–particularly those that will be destroyed or undergoing active harm–we practice self care. I have found, personally, that doing this energetic work outlined here in this post really helps me overcome the strain and pain of these kinds of situations. For me, painting through it, or playing my flute, or visiting places that are protected for rejuvenation also helps (I’ll write about this in more detail in an upcoming post). I’ll also note that going to places that are actively regenerating, and looking for the regeneration, and regenerating it physically is another way to work through the trauma. But its there, and its real, and we can talk openly about it and acknowledge it for what it is. And with that said, let’s look at some specific strategies for healing for sites that will be destroyed.

Strategies for Land Healing on Sites that Will Be Destroyed

Experiencing the powerlessness of visiting a site that will be destroyed is difficult, but you are not actually powerless. I learned this lesson in Michigan–we had a replacement oil pipeline coming in, cutting across the whole state, to replace an old pipeline that was no longer in use. The new pipeline required a lot of digging up of the earth, cutting of trees, damaging the land, and it was really awful (I blogged about it a bit here and some of the restoration work here; I also wrote about oil pipelines energetically here). This particular pipeline was doubly damaging because the pipeline was pumping tar sands oil through its veins, and that’s really bad stuff for the land. A good friend of mine had a number of acres of forests that would be cut along the pipeline route. She asked me to come and do what I could for the trees and the land, as a druid. And so, I and a few others came together and did what we could–and we were rather amazed by the experience. I can tell you this–doing something, the somethings outlined here, make a world of difference when compared with doing nothing. I’ll also mention that a lot of what you can do on such a site depends on if its private or public, and so I’m going to share some strategies that can work for different kinds of sites. Most of these are energetic healing strategies, but a few have physical components as well, and doing some work on both levels is really effective.

Skunk cabbage coming back after the land has done some healing!

Communicating with the land. I begin this kind of work by speaking with the land, using both inner and outer approaches. For those who don’t know what I mean here, I would suggest reviewing my discussions of connecting with trees on the inner and outer planes–most of what I wrote in those posts applies. I share with the land what I know will happen and when, and listen to what it responds in turn. I offer to help and ask it of its needs. Sometimes, I am asked to return at a later date. Sometimes, I am asked to leave and not return. But most of the time, I’m asked to stay and help as I am able. This, as I wrote in the post on the process of unfolding, is the necessary first step.

Saving Seeds and Transplanting. For trees that will be cut, places that will be destroyed, etc, I highly advocate transplanting and saving seeds. Even a single plant saved from a site that will be destroyed can be a very healing action. For example, when my friend’s land was being logged in Michigan, I gathered hawthorn haws and apples from the trees; these I planted in fields where they would have a chance to grow. I also saved a New England Aster plant that I transplanted to my homestead, and saved seeds from a number of other plants. You can’t save everything, but you can save a few key things, and the land and her spirits find this kind of work extraordinarily healing. Even more powerful–if you save the seeds from those that will be lost, and later, you can go replant them in the same spot–you are engaging in extremely powerful healing work. I’ll also say that if you can bless those seeds, using something like what I wrote about here, and then replant them, that’s even better. What this does, essentially, is ensure a future for some of the plants and trees. You are saving this land’s offspring and future offspring. There is nothing more sacred and powerful than that act.

Now there is a whole other layer to this, I’ve discovered, through the practice of herbal medicine. The seeds I mentioned above that I gathered are all healing plants and trees. New England Aster, for example, is a fantastic lung relaxant plant and something that a number of people now take for treating asthma and other lung conditions (myself included!) When I replanted that New England Aster plant, I saved its seeds and I harvested some of the flowers each year for medicine. That medicine was shared with others. So were the seeds–I started them–growing new asters, that I’ve given to people and made medicine from (in fact, I have some downstairs right now growing for new friends here in PA!) Think about that energetically–here is a site that is devalued through human activity. When nature is replaced with something else, whether that is a strip mall, an oil pipeline, and so forth, the message is that nature is of little to no value in its current form. But, through herbal medicine, plant, and seed saving, I’ve given that land a different narrative. Showing that the plants it holds, through their very nature, are valued.

Saving the seeds…

Putting the Land in Hibernation. One of the best things you can do in this circumstance, and what a lot of these other strategies that I describe next are getting at, is to put the land in stasis or hibernation energetically, to help it disconnect in some way from the pain and suffering that will happen. This is really the underlying key this kind of work. If you can find a way to lower the energetic vibrations and consciousness of the land, to disconnect it, to help send its spirits away, that is the best thing you can do. Its kind of like giving a suffering person a pain killer–it helps make the process bearable, even though its still painful. We’ll look at a number of techniques aimed at doing this–and you can also let your own intuition guide you in this respect.

Working with the Stones. I have found, at times, that with logging or other surface destruction (something that is not impacting the bedrock), you can preserve the energetic patterns of the land by sending them into them into the bedrock, into the soil, beneath the land. This is another “putting the land to sleep” kind of strategy, and one that is particularly powerful. The rocks can hold this energy for a time, sometimes, a very long time. Its hard to put this practice into words. Essentially, every living landscape has knowledge, wisdom, energetic patterns, that are in need of preservation in the face of destruction. These energetic patterns are part of the land uses to heal and regenerate when the time is right. I believe, that if you do this work with the stones before destruction, it can help regenerate the land much more effectively once regeneration can occur.

Part of the reason that this works was revealed to me when I was at Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands region of PA late last year. I was walking there with a fellow druid and dear friend, and we came across all of these fossils there on the edge of the Youghiogheny river. The fossils were from very ancient forests, ancient trees and branches, shells and more. I realized, at that moment, that the stones and the living landscape were extremely intimately connected–the stones themselves had been living plants at one time–and now they are all beneath the living landscape. I had been using these connections could be used for healing work for some time, but this realization helped me understand why. These stones, fossilized stones in particular (of which we have layers all over the planet) can handle living resonances particularly well. And hold them for as long as necessary.

My method of doing this is simple–I enter a state of meditation and open myself up to the rhythms and flows of the land. I explain what is happening, and show the spirits of the land what I could do with regards to the stones. If I get the affirmative, I essentially take those same energetic patterns, and, using the solar current, push them deep within the stones, deeper than any destruction can go. IMoving energy in this way can take a lot of effort–and a lot of practice. Many of the energy healing practices (like Reiki) or magical practices help attune you to the movement, raising, and flowing of energy, and so those are particularly helpful for doing this work, especially on a larger scale. Reiki practice and other esoteric forms of energy work, for example, teach you how to work with others’ energy (whether that other is a person, plant, or landscape) while not sacrificing your own or sending your own somewhere else. Make sure, if you are doing this work, that you are practicing extreme caution in this regard. Otherwise, this work can be extraordinarily depleting, which is not what we are going for!

I’ll also note that this particular “stone” technique would not be as effective for fracking and mountaintop removal. Oil pipelines that go only 10 or 20 feet below the surface would probably be OK. I am in the process, now, of developing strategies for the fracking wells and mountaintop removal–and when I’ve done so, I can share those as well.

This is ghost pipe when its a little past its prime and is going to seed. There is a wild bumblebee on the flower! You can also see the dried ghost pipe sticking up as they complete their growth cycle.

Working with Ghost Pipe to Distance the Pain. One particular plant spirit energy is good for this kind of work, especially for when the destruction starts happening or is ongoing. Its a plant called Indian Ghost Pipe, Ghost Flower, Indian pipe (Latin Name: Monotropa Uniflora). This plant, when used for human herbal healing, offers distancing from pain and suffering or, as Sean Donohue writes, it helps in “putting the pain beside you.” Ghost pipe also functions as a plant that helps cross the boundaries between the worlds, very useful when destruction is imminent or just beginning. I have worked extensively with this plant over a period of years, and I have found it to be an extremely potent ally for land healing work–both for you as the healer and for the land.

What this plant does, energetically, is essentially provide a buffer to the pain and suffering the land experiences both before the event and in the middle of ongoing destruction. Its an exceedingly good plant to use for palliative care applications as well as this specific one.

Usually, to work with this plant spirit in land healing, I will do one of several things. My first method is to see if there are any ghost pipes growing on the land (they come out in midsummer, after good rains, usually for me here that’s late June into July and August). If they are present, I sit and connect with them. A lot of times though, Ghost Pipe isn’t present on the land. And so for this, I tincture the plant (I make a tincture in the same method of my write up on magical crafting and hawthorn). Note Ghost pipe is particularly watery, so a high proof alcohol is needed for the tincture. I water the tincture down quite a bit, putting a dozen or so drops in fresh spring water (blessed through a healing ritual). Then, when I go to do the land healing work, I will bring the ghost pipe-blessed water with me, dropping it at intervals around the location, usually on trees and roots. If I can, I will try to drop it on at least the four quarters of the space, or find other prominent markers (large dominant trees work well). Alternatively, if bringing the ghost pipe tincture and spring water isn’t possible, I will place the tincture on some stones that I will bless, and then bring them with me to the site. If I don’t have any tincture or stones, I can still summon this plant in my mind’s eye, and envision the Indian pipe rising up out of the ground and covering the land (I’ve used that particular strategy when I witness suffering–like a truckload of factory farmed chickens going off to the slaughter while driving down the highway, for example). This year, I’m also going to make a magical anointing oil with ghost pipe (probably dried ghost pipe due to its high water content) and use that as well.

I would suggest if you want to use this plant in the manner I am suggesting here, you should start cultivating a relationship with it in your own life: finding it in the forest, sitting with it, tincturing it, taking some tincture when you need it, etc. In fact, it works extraordinarily well in regards to giving you processing space from the mental health difficulties associated with this work. This plant is extremely distinctive and nearly impossible to mistake for another (and yes, its a plant, not a mushroom).

A recent painting of ghost pipe I did to study the plant further

I will end by saying that Ghost Pipe has a tremendously large range in North America (see ). However, if you live outside of its range or in a different part of the world, I am certain that you can find another plant with similar features–you’ll need to consult local herbals (or herbalists, medicine makers, wild men/women, etc); alternatively, you can trade for some from someone living in an area where it grows (like me!).

Distance Palliative Care and Healing Work

A final technique that I’ll share for now involves taking a stone or some other natural thing from the land (a piece of branch, etc) that can then be worked on further at a distance. I did this kind of work when I was in Michigan a lot with regards to this pipeline and some other sites that needed ongoing palliative care–if I felt led, I would take a stone with me and bring it to a special altar I had setup on my homestead. The altar had protective warding around it (both stones and water) that helped shield the rest of my sacred sanctuary from anything that might be brought in with the linked stone. Then, at regular intervals, I would do whatever healing work I could–play music there, just sit there and hold space, pour blessed water over the stone, etc. Sometimes, at a later point, I would return the stone to the land. Sometimes, it would stay for a long period of time, just sitting there. I use my intuition in this regard.

I think that’s enough for this week–I’m over 3000 words here, and there’s lots more to say. We’ll continue to work through these different techniques–and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences with what I’ve just posted.

Indian PipeMonotropa uniflora

Prev Next Pause Resume

To support our efforts please browse our store (books with medicinal info, etc.).

IMPORTANT: this plant contains andromedotoxin therefore use in moderation. According to the University of Bristol the human digestive system can break down andromedotoxin into harmless compounds, HOWEVER, when too much as been consumed then the individual will experience symptoms of vomiting and stomach upset, as well as reduced blood pressure.
More often than not the Indian Pipe is often thought to be a fungus yet it is a flowering plant. It belongs to the Ericaceae (blueberry) family. This is one of about 3,000 species of non-photosynthetic flowering plants. Monotropa uniflora can actually grow in dark environments because it is not dependent on light for photosynthesis. These plants were once believed to absorb all nutrients from decayed organic material, but it is now known that they are associated with a fungus, which obtains nutrients directly from the roots of green plants. Therefore this makes the Indian Pipe a parasite, using the fungus as a bridge between it and its host. It is also known as the Ghost Pipe, Pipe plant, or the Corpse plant. It is native to North America.

Distinguishing Features

This is very easy to spot when mature as its shape resembles a pipe and it is white. When bruised or as its lifecycle ends then it becomes black.

Flowers

Single flowers grow to about 2cm (1”) long nod, are bell-like and occur at the end of the stem. The 4 to 6 (usually 5) translucent white petals are barely discernable from the reduced sepals and faint, scale like leaves that fall over the flower head. All parts of this frail, plant blacken quickly from bruises.

Leaves

This plant has no leaves. There are pale white scales along the stem.

Height

10 to 20 cm (4 to 8”).

Habitat

This plant occurs in rich habitats, dense moist forests usually with a lot of surface leaf litter, often in a situation that is too shaded for autotrophic (photosynthetic) growth. The Indian Pipe grows throughout Canada, most of the U.S., some European countries, eastern Asia, and possibly parts of South America.

Edible Parts

Indian Pipes have had some edible uses over the years although it has been and continues to be used extensively for medicinal purposes. According to Plants for a Future `the whole plant can be cooked. It is tasteless if eaten raw, but has a taste like asparagus when it is cooked`. Depending on your location this may be a protected plant – check with local laws. Also, there is a warning in regards to edibilty – see below!

Other Name

Ghost Pipe.

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks:
Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks: Indian Pipe’s waxy white flower initially looks like a shepherd’s hook, but slowly straightens after it is pollinated by an insect. Indian Pipe on the Woods and Waters Trail (23 August 2014).

Indian Pipe is a native wildflower with a thick, white translucent stem ending in a white nodding flower. It grows in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

Indian Pipe derives its common name from its supposed resemblance, when in flower, to a peace pipe. Other common names include Indianpipe, Indian-pipe, One-flower Indian Pipe, Ghost Plant, Corpse Plant, Ghost Pipe, and Ghost Flower. The latter names are a reference to the plant’s waxy, ghostly appearance. The plant has also been known as Ice Plant (because it is said to resemble frozen jelly and melts when handled) and Bird’s Nest (a reference to the shape of its tangled root fibers).

The genus name (Monotropa) means “one turn” in Greek – a reference to the sharp curve of the top of the stem. The species name (uniflora) is Latin for “one-flowered” – a reference to the fact that each stem bears only one flower.

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks: Indian Pipe lacks chlorophyll. It obtains its nutrients by tapping into the resources of trees, indirectly through myccorhizal fungi. Indian Pipe on the Logger’s Loop Trail (27 July 2013).

Indian Pipe is a parasitic plant that lacks chlorophyll, so it is unable to obtain energy from sunlight as most plants do. It is one of an estimated 3,000 species of non-photosynthetic flowering plants. At one time, it was believed that Indian Pipe absorbed nutrients from decayed organic material. This is not the case. We now know that Indian Pipe obtains its nutrients by tapping into the resources of trees, indirectly through myccorhizal fungi.

  • The tree obtains its energy from photosynthesis.
  • The fungi (in the genera Russula and Lactarius) obtains its nutrients directly from the tree roots.
  • The Indian Pipe gets its nourishment through the fungi, which acts as a middleman that processes food delivery to Indian Pipe from its green neighbors. This relationship is called mycotropism.

Plants like Indian Pipe are known as epiparasites: parasites that feed on other parasites.

Identification of Indian Pipe

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks: Indian Pipe’s translucent leaves are overlapping and scale-like. Indian Pipe on the Boreal Life Trail (21 June 2014).

Indian Pipe is a low-growing plant, about four to ten inches tall. The whole plant is waxy white in appearance when young, although some specimans can have pale salmon pink coloration and black specks. The stem is thick and translucent. Stems can be found alone, but are commonly found in small clusters. Stems break easily when new.

Indian Pipe leaves are translucent scale-like appendages arrayed down the stem, less than an inch in length. The leaves are vestigial, since they do not carry on photosynthesis.

Indian Pipe bears a single, four- to six-parted white flower. The flowers are about 3/4 inches long and waxy white, like the stem. Plants have only one flower per stem.

The flower initially looks like a shepherd’s hook, but slowly straightens after it is pollinated by an insect. At that point, the stem becomes upright. Indian Pipe usually begins blooming in the Adirondacks in late July and blooms into August, although it may appear in late June in some years.

Uses of Indian Pipe

Although Indian Pipe is said to be edible, one source suggests that it may be toxic. In any case, it should not be consumed, because it is too scarce to harvest. The plant was used by some native North American Indian tribes for medicinal purposes. Cherokee tribes, for instance, reportedly used the pulverized root as an anticonvulsive, while the Mohegans used an infusion of the root or leaves as an analgesic. The Cree chewed the flower as a remedy for toothache.

Wildlife Value of Indian Pipe

No wildlife uses of Indian Pipe were found.

Distribution of Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe is native throughout North America, except for parts of northern Canada, from Northwestern California to Alaska; east across the northern part of the western and most of the eastern United States. Indian Pipe is found in most counties in New York State and in all counties within the Adirondack Park Blue Line, except for Clinton, Fulton, and Saratoga counties.

Habitat of Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe grows in a wide variety of well-drained, shady sites. Indian Pipe apparently does not do well in recently disturbed areas. In the Forest Ecosystem Research and Demonstration Area (FERDA) at the Paul Smiths VIC, an inventory of plants taken a decade after logging operations showed a decline in frequency for Indian Pipe on three of the five blocks that had been logged: shelterwood, single tree cut, and clearcut.

In the Adirondack Mountains, Indian Pipe grows in both hardwood and mixed wood forests, up to an elevation of about 4,000 feet. This species may be seen on many of the trails discussed here. It can be found growing on a bed of moss under conifers or on a bed of deciduous leaves under hardwoods.

Michael Kudish. Adirondack Upland Flora: An Ecological Perspective (The Chauncy Press, 1992), pp. 16, 147.

New York Flora Association. New York Flora Atlas. Indian-pipe. Monotropa uniflora L. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

United States Department of Agriculture. The Plants Database. Indianpipe. Monotropa uniflora L. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

United States Department of Agriculture. Forest Service. Plant of the Week. Ghost Pipe (Monotropa uniflora L.) Retrieved 15 April 2017

Flora of North America. Monotropa uniflora Linnaeus. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

NatureServe Explorer. Online Encyclopedia of Life. Monotropa uniflora – Linnaeus. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

New England Wildflower Society. Go Botany. One-flowered Indian-pipe. Monotropa uniflora L. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

New York State. Department of Environmental Conservation. New York Natural Heritage Program. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition (March 2014), p. 121. Retrieved 17 October 2015.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2015. Online Conservation Guide for Hemlock-Northern Hardwood Forest. Retrieved 22 February 2017.

New York State. Adirondack Park Agency. Preliminary List of Species Native Within the Adirondack Park Listed Alphabetically by Scientific Name and Sorted by Habit. Volume 1. Updated 10.23.2006, p. 29. Retrieved 26 January 2017.

Connecticut Botanical Society. Indian Pipe. Monotropa uniflora L. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

eNature. Indian Pipe. Monotropa uniflora. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

University of Wisconsin. Flora of Wisconsin. Monotropa uniflora L. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

Minnesota Wildflowers. Monotropa uniflora (Indian Pipe). Retrieved 15 April 2017

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Monotropa uniflora. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

Mark J. Twery, at al. Changes in Abundance of Vascular Plants under Varying Silvicultural Systems at the Forest Ecosystem Research and Demonstration Area, Paul Smiths, New York. USDA Forest Service. Research Note NRS-169. Retrieved 22 January 2017, p. 7.

Plants for a Future. Monotropa uniflora – L. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

Steven Foster and James A. Duke. Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), pp. 38-39.

University of Michigan. Native American Ethnobotany. A Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants. Indianpipe. Monotropa uniflora L. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

Anne McGrath. Wildflowers of the Adirondacks (EarthWords, 2000), pp. 20.

Doug Ladd. North Woods Wildflowers (Falcon Publishing, 2001), p. 198.

Lawrence Newcomb. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (Little Brown and Company, 1977), pp. 172-173.

Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny. A Field Guide to Wildflowers. Northeastern and North-central North America (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968) pp. 232-233.

National Audubon Society. Field Guide to Wildflowers. Eastern Region. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), pp. 637-638.

William K. Chapman, et al. Wildflowers of New York in Color (Syracuse University Press, 1998), pp. 32-33.

Thomas J. Volk, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Fungus of the Month. Monotropa uniflora. Retrieved 15 April 2017.

Wildflowers of the Adirondack Park

Monotropa uniflora – Ghost Plant, Indian Pipe

Indian pipe is a perennial wildflower with a wide geographic distribution throughout the United States, from Maine to California and from Florida to Alaska. It is absent from the southwest, intermountain west and the central Rocky mountains. However, Indian Pipe is not a commonly encountered wildflower.

Monotropa uniflora flower. Photo by Gary Monroe.

Monotropa uniflora range map. USDA PLANTS Database.

Monotropa uniflora (Monotropa – once turned; uniflora – one flowered) ranges in height from 10 to 30 centimeters. The entire plant is a translucent, “ghostly” white, sometimes pale pinkish-white and commonly has black flecks. The leaves are scale-like and flecked with black on the flower stalk (peduncle). As the Latin epithet uniflora implies, the stem bears a single flower. Upon emerging from the ground, the flower is pendant (downwardly pointed). As the anthers and stigma mature, the flower is spreading to all most perpendicular to the stem. The fruit is a capsule. As the capsule matures, the flower becomes erect (in line with the stem). Once ripened, seed is released through slits that open from the tip to the base of the capsule. The plant is persistent after seed dispersal.

Monotropa uniflora flowers. Photo by Hugh and Carol Nourse.

Monotropa uniflora flower. Photo by Gary Monroe.

America’s eminent poet, Emily Dickinson, called the Indian pipe “the preferred flower of life.” In a letter to Mabel Todd, she confides, “I still cherish the clutch with which I bore it from the ground when a wondering child, and unearthly booty, and maturity only enhances the mystery, never decreases it.”

Poems. By Emily Dickinson

Monotropa uniflora. Photo by Gary Monroe.

Monotropa uniflora flowers from early summer to early autumn. It is found in mature, moist, shaded forests.

Monotropa uniflora. Photo by Hugh and Carol Nourse.

Monotropa uniflora. Photo by Chris Wagner.

Plant Database

Cressler, Alan

Monotropa uniflora

Monotropaceae (Indian Pipe Family)

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

Monotropa uniflora is achlorophyllous and is mycoheterotrophic; that is, it utilizes fungi to obtain carbon from the roots of autotrophic plants.

Waxy white plant that blackens with age; stems covered with scaly bracts and terminated by a solitary nodding flower that looks like a shepherd’s hook.

These plants were once believed to absorb all nutrients from decayed organic material, but it is now known that they are associated with a fungus, which obtains nutrients directly from the roots of green plants. Indian Pipe, therefore, is more of a parasite, with the fungus as a bridge between it and its host. The plant turns black as the fruit ripens or when it is picked and dried.

From the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit:

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep

Distribution

USA: AK , AL , AR , CA , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Northwestern California to Alaska; east across the northern part of the western and most of the eastern United States.
Native Habitat: Deep shaded woods.

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Conditions Comments: This non-green, waxy plant gets its nourishment from decayed organic material through a fungal relationship (mycorrhiza) associated with the roots. The plant turns black as the fruit ripens or when it is picked and dried. (Niering)

Benefit

Conspicuous Flowers: yes

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Plant identification
September 24, 2008
I found a flower about 5 inches tall and it is Pinkish White the head of it hangs down and looks like a rose that hasn’t bloomed yet. It reminds me of an Orchid like Fairy . Its Mystic like! what is …
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

Region: AGCP AK AW CB EMP GP HI MW NCNE WMVE
Status: FACU UPL FACU FACU UPL FACU FACU FACU

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). for map of regions.

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1989 VOL. 6, NO.4 – Spring Climbs Rockies Slowly, Colorado Cooler, Conference of Wildflower and Nati…

Additional resources

USDA: Find Monotropa uniflora in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Monotropa uniflora in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Monotropa uniflora

Metadata

Record Modified: 2016-03-04
Research By: TWC Staff

Go back

Flowers:

The nodding flower of the Indian Pipe is approximately 1.5-2.5 cm. long. The ball-shaped bloom has 4-5 thin translucent white petals, 10-12 stamens and a single pistil.

Fruit:

The fruit is an oval capsule-like structure that becomes enlarged and erect when the seeds mature.

Leaves:

Leaves are highly reduced and are best identified as scales or bracts. These structures are small, thin, and translucent. They do not have petioles but instead extend in a sheath-like manner out of the stem.

Habitat:

Indian pipe thrives best in woodland humus.

Fun Facts:

Indian Pipe lacks chlorophyll accounting for its translucent white color. Because it can not synthesize its own energy, this plant is a saprophyte; like a fungus, its root system soaks up necessary nutrients from surrounding decaying plant matter.

Like most saprophytic plants, Indian pipe truns dark brown to black when it is starved or in fruit.

Also known as the “Corpse Plant” or “Ghost Plant”, the Indian Pipe served as inspiration for this Dickinson poem

White as an Indian Pipe
Red as a Cardinal Flower
Fabulous as a Moon at Noon
February Hour —

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *