Searching for Florida's Indian Pipes

Monotropa uniflora, the pink form
John Freudenstein and Mike Broe from the Ohio State University Herbarium asked us to pass along this research request:

We will be visiting Florida in mid-December on a plant collecting fieldtrip. We are specifically looking for Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora), the white form and particularly the pink to dark-pink forms. This research is part of a worldwide study on the monotropoid group of plants. If any of your members could supply information on locations where we might find these we would be most grateful! We have found that local knowledge can be crucial to successfully locating monotropoids. You can contact us at

Indian pipes and their close relatives (pinesap, pinedrops, pigmypipes, etc.) are fascinating because they completely lack chlorophyll: this means they depend on other plants for food. It used to be thought that they were parasites, but in fact they are part of a three-way symbiosis: an underground fungus forms a bridge between the roots of the Indian Pipes and the roots of a tree that is the ultimate source of food. The seeds also require the presence of the fungus to germinate: this is one reason they are so darn hard to find! In fact, these plants are often mistaken for fungi at first glance, and it is difficult to establish detailed family relationships by looking at the plant's morphology. We are isolating DNA from both the plant and the fungus to establish family relationships within the monotropoids.

Northern Indian Pipes are usually white, occasionally pale pink. In Mexico they can be much larger flowered, and dark-pink to salmon-colored. We are trying to establish if these southern pink forms - which have also been reported in Florida - are a distinct species, and just how closely they are related to the white forms.
Again, you can reach us at with locality information, or any other questions about these unusual plants!


Tom said…
Here is a report that they have been documented in Juno Dunes Natural Area in Palm Beach County. I am the volunteer Land Steward there, but I have never seen them. What habitat do they like? I will guide you around Juno Dunes if you like. Strictly as a volunteer. Dunes Natural Area

Mike Broe said…
For the habitat in that region, I don't think I can do better than quote the botanist John Small, who originally suggested that the southern Indian-pipe is a distinct species:

"We happened on an area of scrub south of the Sebastian River, with a remarkably prolific plant covering. Westward from the lagoon, there was often a mixed growth of spruce-pine (Pinus clausa) and live-oak (Quercus virginiana) instead of the normal scrub-association. The ground was covered with a carpet of dead pine-needles. However, this carpet was often hidden beneath a quite astonishing growth of lichens... including reindeer-moss. The growth was so dense that nearly all herbaceous growth was smothered, except the southern Indian-pipe (Monotropa britonii), which pushed through as individuals or as colonies, with its cream-colored or salmon nodding flowers and black dead-ripe erect capsules."

There is a black and white photo, with the legend "On scrub ridge along Sebastian River where acres of the reindeer-mosses cover the white sand like snow. The woody growth consists of spruce-pine, saw-palmetto, and cabbage tree. A frequent associate of the reindeer-moss is Britton's Indian-pipe, which often pushes up through the lichen with stems over a foot tall."

- Small, J. K. (1927) "Among floral aborigines: a record of exploration in Florida in the Winter of 1922", Journal of the New York Botanical Garden.
Sandra Friend said…
Just had a friend on Facebook point me to your post. I photographed a "fairy ring" of deep pink Indian-pipe in Seminole State Forest in early November. It was along the Florida Trail about 2.5 miles south of the Cassia (northern) trailhead off SR 44.

Here's the image. I have a close-up, too, if you need it.
Rednick said…
If you still need some I see them every year in the same spot about 5 or 6 clumps at a time
Thanks for offering to help, Nick. This article is a bit dated, so I have no idea whether or not they are still looking for this species. If you will send an email to to let them know that you can guide them toward some of these interesting plants, I'm sure they'd be most appreciative. Thanks!
Unknown said…
I found 3 on my property when I moved down here I posted pictures on my blog
Unknown said…
I saw them last week at the Scrub Trail in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge if you are still interested- or anyone else.
Anonymous said…
I just located some in apalachicola National forest, South of Tallahassee fl. Really cool! Is horse dung part of this equation? They are in the center of a trail used by horse riders and wildlife.

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