Monotropa Uniflora – A.K.A. Ghost Flower A.K.A. Indian Pipe A.K.A. Corpse Plant
A lot has been going on lately but I haven’t had the will to write about it. I’ve been spending way too much time on the computer doing work for clients and the thought of turning one of these machines on at home to write a blog post just hasn’t been that appealing. For that I apologize, though I can’t say it is going to be fixed any time soon. As long as I work online for a living posts will be sporadic. Though one of these days I promise that part of my life will be over with and you’ll see me posting often about all kinds of fun things.
Yesterday I worked on the composting toilet outhouse with our work-exchanger Jonathan. Toward the end of the day Jonathan and I took a walk in the woods with a couple of edible plant field guides. I found two types of hickory trees (one of them a shagbark!), dug up some sassafras sapling roots, picked some stinging nettle and munched on a few other things as we walked. Then I came upon these little ghostly beauties growing near a rock outcropping in our fertile bottomland in the woods…
They’re called Indian Pipes or Corpse Plants by most around here, but the first thing that came into my mind was “Ghost Flower”. It’s a good thing we have Latin names for plants though because it’s hard telling what you’ll end up with using common names. Most people call these (Mohavea Confertiflora) ghost flowers. And most people call these (Amorphophallus Titanum) corpse plants. The Latin name for what I found yesterday is Monotropa Uniflora. So far as I can tell there aren’t any other “Indian Pipes” so that could be a safe bet for a common name.
Have you ever seen a translucent flower? They looked so delicate rising up out of the leaf litter like mushrooms. In fact, it is thought that these plants have a parasitic relationship with fungi and instead of using photosynthesis (they lack chlorophyll) their energy comes from decaying trees, in the form of nutrients that have been “pre-digested” by the fungi. This allows them to grow in very dark places where little light can be had by such a small plant.
Are They Edible?
While they might be edible in the literal sense of the word, I don’t think they’d make a very good meal. A quick search on the web reveals Native American legends about using these plants medicinally to heal a broken heart after a loved one has passed on. They did remind me of The Cycle so I can see how such a myth could be useful to a culture.
OK time for me to get back to work. Maybe I should just do all of my posting in the morning before I get sick of looking at the screen all day?