Also called the ghost plant, Indian pipe or corpse plant, is a perennial wildflower named from its shape and its pure, pale white colour. Unlike most other plants, this species does not produce chlorophyll, the green pigment used for photosynthesis. As a result, it is completely white (including its stem and scale-like “leaves”) and non-photosynthetic. It obtains energy through myco-heterotrophy — a relationship where plants obtain food through parasitism rather than photosynthesis. This plant relies on a large network of roots and fungi to “steal” energy from surrounding plants.
This fine specimen was observed in the Morgan Arboretum.
Little known fact – the 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.”
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