What’s a Ghost Plant? Pale Flower Spotted in Michigan’s U.P.
Have you ever heard of the Ghost Pipe? Sometimes called the Ghost Plant, Corpse Plant, or Indian Pipe, it's a plant known for its distinct white color. And, I, in my 34 years of life, had never heard of it until today.
I was casually scrolling through Facebook, dodging the all-caps rants from random family members when I happened to stumble upon the below post from the account Photography by Frances Czapski:
Whitefish Point, if you don't know, is at the northeastern most tip of the UP:
But, what caught my attention was the incredibly pale flower in the picture. Since I had never heard of a "ghost pipe" I decided to do a deep dive. This is what I found.
What is a Ghost Pipe?
The Ghost Pipe is a plant that does not produce chlorophyll, otherwise known as the green pigment plants usually have that helps with photosynthesis. The plant is white in color and often grows in damp, shaded, wooded areas. So, it makes sense that it was spotted in the U.P.
How Does it Grow?
Since this plant doesn't photosynthesize (which is the process of converting light energy into chemical energy) it has to get creative in order to acquire nutrients. Instead, this plant "networks" with nearby fungi and other plants through its root system to, basically, borrow their energy to sustain itself. That's according to Michigan State University.
It makes sense, after learning this, why this plant would also be dubbed the corpse plant. But, I submit that it should, instead, be called the zombie plant. It is feeding off of nearby, "alive" plants, after all. No, this process does not really hurt the nearby plants as Ghost Pipes tend to blossom near trees that have the energy to spare if I'm understanding it correctly.
This plant tends to flower from June to September, according to natureconservancy.ca.
Where Can I Find This Plant?
From a quick Google search, it seems like this plant mostly grows in Canada. Nature Conservancy Canada offers a map showing all of the areas where the Ghost Pipe grows in their region. You can see that map here.
For Michigan, it's proving to be a bit tougher to nail down an exact area where you might find them. But, given U.P.'s forested areas and relative closeness to Canada, it feels safe to assume that you would be more likely to spot these elusive plants in the UP and other North Michigan areas.
If you'd like to learn more about the Ghost Pipe, mushrooms and more, check out this video from the Youtube channel Learn Your Land:
While you're out exploring, possibly on the hunt for the ghost plant, make sure you're not stacking rocks. Apparently, it can actually harm the ecosystem. Read more below:
Love Michigan's U.P.? It's a gorgeous area. But, did you know that several films are actually set in the UP? Check it out: