Parasitic Flowers


Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of discovering the plant Pinesap (Montropa hypopitys) growing along the Trapper Creek trail just to the west of Odell Lake. It was such an unusual plant that it was a treat to find it. A bonus for me, is that it closely resembled two other plants that I’ve had the opportunity to find within the last year and a half. Most recently, Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) which we found growing abundantly along Brice Creek trail in late July 2011.

Indian Pipe along the Brice Creek Trail.

And Coral Root (Corallorhiza striata) a type of orchid that we happened to discover growing along the Row River Bike Path along Dorena Lake in early May 2011. Unlike the Pinesap and the Indian Pipe, this was not prolific and I consider us lucky to have distinguished the reddish-brown flowers of the Coral Root from the sticks and other debris lining the path.

Coral Root in flower.

What do these three plants have in common? They are all parasitic, getting their nutrients from fungi growing in the soil, which, in turn, get their nutrients from trees. Since these plants don’t require photosynthesis to create chlorophyll, they are able to grow in dark environments where you don’t typically find many flowers.

The Row River: Origins
Oregon Dunes Day Use Area


  1. Thanks for the id on the Coral Root! I have only seen it once, of course my first Indian Pipe was up the North Umpqua a few years ago.

    • I love the parasitic flowers, I think because they grow in unexpected places!

      When I first posted this on facebook, someone commented about a plant called “peppermint stick” or “candy stick” (aka., Allotropa virgata). I think I might have come across one on the coast last spring, but it wasn’t in bloom yet. Your comment is a good reminder to get back out there this spring to see if I can find it again.

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