(Monotropa uniflora) Indian-pipe family

Flowers - Solitary, smooth, waxy, white (rarely pink),

oblong-bell shaped, nodding from the tip of a fleshy, white,

scaly scape 4 to 10 in. tall. Calyx of 2 to 4 early-falling white

sepals; 4 or 5 oblong, scale-like petals; 8 or 10 tawny, hairy

stamens; a 5-celled, egg-shaped ovary, narrowed into the short,

thick style. Leaves: None. Roots: A mass of brittle fibers, from

which usually a cluster of several white scapes arises. Fruit: A

5-valved, many-seeded, erect capsule.

Preferred Habitat - Heavily shaded, moist, rich woods, especially

under oak and pine trees.

Flowering Season - June-August.

Distribution - Almost throughout temperate North America.

Colorless in every part, waxy, cold, and clammy, Indian pipes

rise like a company of wraiths in the dim forest that suits them

well. Ghoulish parasites, uncanny saprophytes, for their matted

roots prey either on the juices of living plants or on the

decaying matter of dead ones, how weirdly beautiful and

decorative, they are! The strange plant grows also in Japan, and

one can readily imagine how fascinated the native artists must be

by its chaste charms.

Yet to one who can read the faces of flowers, as it were, it

stands a branded sinner. Doubtless its ancestors were

industrious, honest creatures, seeking their food in the soil,

and digesting it with the help of leaves filled with good green

matter (chlorophyll) on which virtuous vegetable life depends;

but some ancestral knave elected to live by piracy, to drain the

already digested food of its neighbors; so the Indian pipe

gradually lost the use of parts for which it had need no longer,

until we find it today without color and its leaves degenerated

into mere scaly bracts. Nature has manifold ways of illustrating

the parable of the ten pieces of money. Spiritual law is natural

law: "From him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken

away." Among plants as among souls, there are all degrees of

backsliders. The foxglove, which is guilty of only sly, petty

larceny, wears not the equivalent of the striped suit and the

shaved head; nor does the mistletoe, which steals crude food from

the tree, but still digests it itself, and is therefore only a

dingy yellowish green. Such plants, however, as the broomrape,

pinesap, beechdrops, the Indian pipe, and the dodder - which

marks the lowest stage of degradation of them all - appear among

their race branded with the mark of crime as surely as was Cain.

No wonder this degenerate hangs its head; no wonder it grows

black with shame on being picked, as if its wickedness were only

just then discovered! To think that a plant related on one side

to many of the loveliest flowers in Nature's garden- - the

azaleas, laurels, rhododendrons, and the bonny heather - and on

the other side to the modest but no less charming wintergreen

tribe, should have fallen from grace to such a depth! Its

scientific name, meaning a flower once turned, describes it

during only a part of its career. When the minute, innumerable

seeds begin to form, it proudly raises its head erect, as if

conscious that it had performed the one righteous act of its


INDIAN HEMP: AMYROOT IRONWEED FLAT TOP facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail