INDIAN PIPE, Monotropa uniflora, is a ghostly white or pale pink perennial of the heath family (Ericaceae). The stems, arising from matted, fibrous rootlets, frequently occur in clusters.
Each stem is 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) high and bears a few small scalelike leaves and a solitary nodding flower. Flowering occurs from June to September, and as the fruit ripens, the stem of the plant gradually straightens, causing the flower to stand erect.
Indian pipes grow in rich, moist woods in North America, Central America, and eastern Asia. The roots are always associated with fungi in the form of a root-fungus complex known as a mycorrhiza. The fungi, in turn, are connected with the roots of trees. Indian pipes lack chlorophyll, and they obtain their food from the fungi. Because of this relationship, Indian pipes are almost impossible to cultivate.