So perhaps the drying out and thinning of the forest understory is the reason why I was able to see these Indian pipes. Indian pipes are a parasite, technically, and not a fungus, which is what you’d probably guess they were if you didn’t know. Without chlorophyll, it’s a plant, a parasite of a fungus that takes nutrients from a tree. And Indian pipes need nutrients both from the host fungus and the tree, making it a double parasite. They were one of the first woodland plants I could identify and probably the first I ever remember seeing, somewhere way back in my childhood. I still think they are a neat plant. They don’t grow very large, usually around 4-6 inches tall. Occasionally I see a taller grouping that is 8-10 inches tall, but those aren’t typical.
American beech trees are a host for the fungus that Indian pipes like, and my front forest has several of those. This little group is just a few of the 12-15 pipes I found yesterday under one of the beech trees. The others are still just poking their heads out of the ground. These are still growing and while the heads will always droop, the plant will uncurl more than they are right now. The plant is also called corpse plant and ghost plant, and it’s waxy to the touch. If you pick them they wilt and turn black right away. I learned that at a young age, too.