Herbs & Plants

Monotropa uniflora

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Botanical Name : Monotropa uniflora
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Monotropa
Species: M. uniflora
Kingdom: Plantae

Common Names : Ghost Plant, Indian Pipe, or Corpse Plant

Habitat :Monotropa uniflora is native to temperate regions of Asia, North America and northern South America, but with large gaps between areas. It is generally scarce or rare in occurrence but is common or even ubiquitous in some areas, such as many parts of eastern North America.

Unlike most plants, it is white and does not contain chlorophyll. Instead of generating energy from sunlight, it is parasitic, more specifically a myco-heterotroph. Its hosts are certain fungi that are mycorrhizal with trees, meaning it ultimately gets its energy from photosynthetic trees. Since it is not dependent on sunlight to grow, it can grow in very dark environments as in the understory of dense forest. The complex relationship that allows this plant to grow also makes propagation difficult.


The plant is sometimes completely white but commonly has black flecks and a pale pink coloration.Rare variants may have a deep red color.

Plant Type: This is a herbaceous plant, it is a perennial which can reach 20cm in height (8inches). The plant is saprophytic and the entire plant is white or in some cases pinkish turning black or dark brown with age.

Leaves: No real leaves only scales.

Flowers: The flowers have 5 Regular Parts. They are white sometimes pinkish. Blooms first appear in early summer and continue into late summer. The number of flower parts may vary but there is only a single flower on each stem. The flowers droop at first later becoming erect as the fruit matures.

The stems reach heights of 10-30 cm, clothed with small scale-leaves 5-10 mm long. As its scientific name suggests, and unlike the related Monotropa hypopitys (but like the closely related Monotropastrum humile), the stems bear only a single flower, 10-15 mm long with 3-8 petals. It flowers from early summer to early autumn.

Like most mycoheterotrophic plants, M. uniflora associates with a small range of fungal hosts, all of them members of Russulaceae

Touch this plant and it will melt in your hand. It has a ghost like appearance thus the names with refferences to death. The Birds Nest name refers to the tangle of roots. The plant can be dried but turns very dark

Similar Species: Pinesap (M. Hypopithys) grows taller, (to 30cm (12″) ) has several flowers on each stem, is usually reddish or yellow and found in acid soil.

Medicinal Uses:
Both Native American healers and white doctors used this plant at least till the early twentieth century. The juice mixed with water was used as a wash for eye problems. This ophthalmic use was apparently quite common and thought highly effective. Sores on other tinder tissue were also treated with a solution. It was also considered a sedative and antispasmodic and so used to treat fits and convulsions such as occurs in epilepsy. It was considered a good substitute opium in many cases.
The dried powdered root was given to children for epilepsy and convulsions. At one time the dried plant was used in place opium to relieve pain and induce sleep. It is a good remedy for spasms, fainting spells and various nervous conditions. The plant was used by some native North American Indian tribes to treat eye problems, the stem was bruised and the clear fluid of the stems applied to the eyes. The juice from the stems has also been used to treat nervous irritability, including fits and spasms. An infusion of the leaves has been used to treat colds and fevers. The crushed plant has been rubbed on bunions and warts in order to destroy them. A poultice of the plant has been applied to sores that are difficult to heal. The flowers have been chewed in order to bring relief from toothache. Water extracts of the plant are bactericidal.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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