Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Eastern Pinesap - Hypopitys species 3 (= Hypopitys monotropa)  
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Section 6 » Family Ericaceae
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DistributionThis undescribed species -- half of the species known as "Pinesap" (see below) -- apparently occurs statewide, but details of its range are not clear, as nearly all herbaria specimens simply are labelled as the original full species (again, see below). Sadly, no map for this taxon can be prepared at the present time.

The overall range is fairly broad, and occupies much of the eastern US. Details are still being worked out.
AbundanceGenerally uncommon to infrequent over the state as a whole, as is its sister species -- now named as Hypopitys lanuginosa. However, it is rather scarce, probably rare, in the southern Coastal Plain. It can be fairly common in the mountains, but rather infrequent over the Piedmont.
HabitatBoth of these two species grow in upland acidic forests, often in pine forests or mixed pine-hardwood stands.
PhenologyThe two Hypopitys species differ considerably in flowering time. This species -- H. species 3 -- blooms in early summer, generally from May to July, and rarely into August; H. lanuginosa blooms in the later summer and fall, generally from early August to early November. Fruiting occurs one to two months after flowering.
IdentificationThis is the "pale" color form taxon of the Hypopitys group. It is a very small saprophytic herb with no chlorophyll, and the whole plant is tan, crème, or yellowish in color, to pale salmon. It is a slender, single-stemmed plant growing only to about 4-6" tall, with many small, ovate, clasping leaves covering the stem -- like scales. When in bloom, the top of the stem droops, such that the cluster of several flowers -- each about 1/2" long and the same color as the stem -- is reminiscent of a seahorse! These flowers dangle with the openings at the bottom. The sister species is colored in red or very dark pink, but otherwise has a similar growth form. Normally, several to many plants grow in a dense stand, often just 1-2" apart from other individuals. It is surprising that it has taken well into the 21st Century for these two forms -- which bloom at considerably different times and with clearly different colors -- to both be described as good species.
Taxonomic CommentsThis is roughly "half" of what was formerly known as Monotropa hypopithys and later as Hypopitys monotropa; yes, the second "h" in the genus has now been dropped. "Hypopitys monotropa" is now considered to represent two separate species, and this one needs to be described; Weakley (2018) lists it as Hypopitys species 3.

Other Common Name(s)Pinesap (used for both Hypopitys species)
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