Indian Pipe

During my recent visit to the Burr Oak Woods Nature Center (Blue Springs, Missouri), I was able to see and photograph the Indian Pipe wildflower (Monotropa uniflora). This was a “lifer” for me. I had heard about this beautiful plant, and even one of my country neighbors had found one on his property a few years ago, although he has since not found any. I was excited to hear from one of my photography students that there were a few growing at Burr Oak Woods.

After a short hike into the woods, we found the two clumps of Indian Pipe wildflowers that the student had found. Thinking there must be more, we both wandered the wooded landscape and ended up finding several more clumps! Here are a few of my favorite images (the first two are “focus-stacked” images):


Indian Pipe wildflower

And a couple of straight macro images:

Indian Pipe wildflower

Indian Pipe wildflower

Here are a few facts I dug up about the Indian Pipe wildflowers. First, they are unable to produce chlorophyll, hence their white color. These woodland beauties are “saprophytes”, living off decaying matter. The flowers are single and grow atop a white, scaly stem that grows to 8″ tall. The flowers are urn-shaped and have 4-5 petals, with no sepals. The flowers are white, turning purple and later black. As the plant’s seeds ripen, the wilted flower often turns upright. There are no leaves on this plant, but are replaced with scales on the floral stem. They grow in dry, humus-rich woods, mainly oak-hickory. My wildflower books note that this plant is absent from west-central Missouri, but living in this area, I guess we found the exceptions!

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF180mm, f/3.5 macro lens
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with Graff Studioball SB-QR ballhead
  • ISO 200 and ISO 640
  • Aperture f/3.5
  • Shutter 1/20 sec. to 0.3 sec.
  • Focus-stacking: from 4 images stacked into one, to 10 images stacked into one



Posted in Focus Stacking, Macro Photography, Nature Photography, Wildflowers
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