From this web site: The Indian pipe is not a fungus, as its appearance would at first suggest. It’s a flowering plant related to the dogwood, evergreen laurel, and rhododendron.
The Indian pipe is a saprophyte, living chiefly on the decaying roots of other plants, particularly trees. Indian pipes are most often found near a dead stump in deep woods. Some botanists believe that the roots work in symbiotic conjunction with certain soil fungi to supplement its diet with food from live tree roots, which would make the plant a parasite as well as a saprophyte.
The plant’s flesh turns black when cut or even bruised. It also oozes a clear, gelatinous substance when picked or wounded. Such unattractive characteristics have earned the Indian pipe some unflattering names, like ghost flower and corpse plant. Indians employed it as an eye lotion — whence the name, eyebright – as well as for colds and fevers. Americans of the last century treated spasms, fainting spells, and nervous conditions with it — thus the names convulsionroot, fitroot, and convulsionweed.
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