It was exciting to come across a plant in the woods this fall that I’ve only seen a couple times before. It’s a flowering plant with no chlorophyll and it’s not a fungus.
I’ve always called them Indian Pipes but I like the name they go by in the South: Ghost Pipes.
Can you believe it’s a member of the blueberry family? Personally, I don’t see any family resemblance!
Notice anything missing besides the color green? Pipes have no leaves because they don’t make chlorophyll. They need no light for the same reason.
To sustain their short lives, they “network” with the fungus (mycorrhiza) that roots of trees are using to obtain the minerals trees need to conduct photosynthesis. While the tree doesn’t seem to benefit at all from the pipes, the pipes don’t seem to damage the trees either.
As the plant matures, “flowers”, or seed heads, form at the top.
Looking down into the seed heads below, you can that they have emptied and soon the whole plant will turn black and melt back into the earth below it.
Waxy and white, eerie and haunting, the Corpse Plant was the favorite flower of one of my favorite American poets — Emily Dickinson. So much so, in fact, that it graced the cover of her first published book of poetry.
“February, that Month of Fleetest Sweetness”