Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday June 2013 -- Indian Pipe

On a recent garden tour I had the singular joy of seeing two patches of the curious native plant Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) growing in one of the gardens, the garden of Millie and Craig Russell in Gig Harbor, WA. This fascinating parasitic plant survives without a speck of chlorophyll by getting its nutrients from a mycorrhizal fungus that is itself living off the roots of a tree. Indian pipe is found in the darkest recesses of the forest. Because it has no chlorophyll, it is completely white, and instead of actual leaves on each stem it has something that more closely resembles scales. If the flower is picked it almost immediately wilts and turns black. The flowers provide nectar for small bumblebees, which pollinate it. The flowers then produce seeds. Any attempt to transplant results in the Indian pipe's death, so it is even more finicky than lady's slipper orchids. According to Millie, it arose in the garden with no help from her.

That patch of ghostly white to the right of the sprinkler head is Indian pipe, also called Ghost flower, or Corpse plant.

It was a real treat getting to see this plant. I'd heard of it, and seen photos in books.

A second, smaller patch is a little further along, but smaller.

Wildflower Wednesday is the brainchild of Gail Eichelberger of the blog clay and limestone, and its purpose is to celebrate wildflowers from around the world on the fourth Wednesday of every month. Check out Gail's post here, where you'll find links to other blog posts about wildflowers.