During a hike out at Old Mission State Park the other day, I spotted these fascinating little plants along the trail (hiked from the Ridgewood trailhead). And then a couple days after I spotted them on the trail, my friend Deb Allen shared a post on Facebook with these same plants.
Having never seen these peculiar plants until that day on the trail, I found this serendipitous coincidence really intriguing.
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So then I posted a photo of them on Old Mission Gazette’s Instagram page (hop over and “follow” it here), and one of my best writer-pals in the world, Rachel Dickinson, commented that they’re known as Indian Pipe, Ghost Plant or Corpse Plant. All intriguing names! My kind of plants! (Shout-out to Rachel’s upcoming book, “American Dynasties,” due out in February 2021 – pre-order it on Amazon here.)
American poet Emily Dickinson called Ghost Plants “the preferred flower of life.” In a letter to Mabel Todd, she confided, “I still cherish the clutch with which I bore it from the ground when a wondering child, and unearthly booty, and maturity only enhances the mystery, never decreases it.” Such lovely words for life.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, Ghost Plants are found in mature, moist, shaded forests (which perfectly describes our forests on the north end of the Old Mission Peninsula), and they flower from early summer to early autumn.
Their Latin name is Monotropa uniflora (Monotropa – once turned; uniflora – one flowered), and the entire plant is a translucent, “ghostly” white, sometimes pale pinkish-white, and sometimes with black flecks. They also note that “Indian Pipe is not a commonly encountered wildflower.” Hmm!
The next time you’re hiking the OMP trails, keep an eye out for these enchanting plants and let me know if you see any. Now that I know they’re there, I’ll definitely be on the lookout for them.