Identification: A white, saprophytic plant with a thick, translucent stem covered with scaly bracts and terminated by a solitary nodding flower.
Flowers: 1/2 to 1 inch long; white or salmon-pink; petals 4 to 5; stamens 10 to 12; single pistil.
Leaves: Reduced to scales. Fruit: Ovoid capsule, becoming enlarged and erect as seeds mature. Plant
height: 3 to 9 inches.
Note: This non-green, waxy plant gets its nourishment from decayed organic material through a fungal relationship (mycorrhiza) associated with the roots. The plant turns black as the fruit ripens or when it is picked and dried.
Flowers: June – October.
Family: Monotropaceae (Indian Pipe Family)
Habitat: Much of the eastern United States. Too scarce to harvest.
Parts Used: Whole plant, root.
Uses: American Indians used plant juice for inflamed eyes, bunions, and warts; drank tea for aches and pains due to colds. Root tea used for convulsions, fits, epilepsy; sedative. Physicians once used tea as antispasmodic, nervine, sedative for restlessness, pains, nervous irritability. As a folk remedy for sore eyes, the plant was soaked in rose water, then a cloth was soaked in the mixture and applied to the eyes. Water extracts are bactericidal.
Warning! Safety undetermined; possibly toxic — contains several glycosides.