Pinesaps & Indian Pipes

Pinesap Indian-pipe Beechdrops Indian-pipe

What are they?

This is a strange group of plants that gets its nutrients by growing parasitically on fungi growing in the soil. All that is seen of these plants is the peculiar, leafless, flowering stems. These stems lack green chlorophyll as they do not need sunlight to manufacture their food.

Where are they found?

As sunlight is not necessary for food production, these plants are often found growing in the darkest parts of the woodland floor (making them very difficult to photograph well!). They grow best where fungal hyphae are most common which generally means deep, loamy soils.


Two species grow in the Cape May area, and are readily told apart by their flowers.

Pinesap     Hypopitys monotropa

Widespread but uncommon and not easily found. Favors deeper, loamy soils in damp woodland. Flowers June to October. The flowers and stems vary in color from all creamy yellow to pinkish or red.
Pinesap Pinesap
Flowering stems
Flowering stem

Indian-pipe     Monotropa uniflora

Not uncommon in shady, damp woodland throughout the county. Flowers June to September. The white or pale pink flowers and stems often have irregular black blotches on them.
Indian-pipe Indian-pipe Indian-pipe Indian-pipe
Cluster of stems
Single stem
Seed capsule

Beechdrops     Epifagus virginiana

Currently known from a single area of woodland in the lower half of the county, where it grows as a parasite on the roots of American Beech. Flowers September to October. This plant is in the broomrape family (Orobanchaceae) but is placed here as it has similar habits to - and vaguely resembles - parasitic members of the Ericaceae. Spikes carry open, male flowers at the top and closed, female flowers at the base.
Beechdrops Beechdrops Beechdrops Beechdrops
Stem with flower buds
Male flower
Female flower