Indian pipe is a perennial wildflower that lacks chlorophyll and is therefore white (sometimes pinkish). It is sometimes misidentified as a mushroom. It usually grows in small clusters. The flowers arise singly on a white, scaly stem and are urn-shaped, nodding, with 4 or 5 petals and no sepals. The flowers are white, turning purple and later black. As the seeds ripen, the downturned flower gradually turns upright. Blooms August–October. Leaves are absent; they are replaced by scales on the floral stem.
Similar species: Indian pipe is distinguished from pinesap (its closest relative in Missouri) by its only bearing one flower per stalk. Indian pipe's species name, “uniflora,” means “one-flowered.”