Indian Pipe — Monotropa uniflora

When we see this white perennial, Indian Pipe, it makes us question the family that biologists have put it in.

How can a plant that has no chlorophyll to make it green belong to the wintergreen plant family?

Indian Pipe is only one of its common names. "Ice Plant,” “Corpse Plant” and “Bird’s Nest” are others. Ice Plant refers to the way this translucent, white flower appears to melt when picked, and it got its common name Bird’s Nest because of the way its roots are structured.

This plant is only found in rich humus woods where fungi are decomposing the organic materials in the soil. It isn’t common, but it can be found in bloom from June through October, in eastern deciduous forests and in the highlands of central United States. It shouldn’t be dug because of its scarcity.

Even though Indian Pipe was used in folk medicine and by American Indians, today it is not recommended to use as a medicine. It contains several glycosides, sugar derivatives, and its safety is not known.

American Indians used plant juices for irritated eyes, bunions, and warts. They made a tea from the plant to treat the pains caused by colds. A root tea was made to treat epilepsy or used as a sedative. Folk doctors made a tea from the plant and roots to treat muscle spasms, irritability and restlessness.

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