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Yellow Birdsnest

Hypopitys monotropa

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ericaceae (Heath)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Meadows, sand dunes, woodland.

Yellow, 5 petals
A nodding spike of 1 to 11 tubular flowers, 4 or 5 petalled. Short-stalked and about 1cm long. The flowers hang downwards when young.
The fruit is a capsule.
The entire plant is pale yellow and tinged red. Perennial. Resembles a Broomrape. Variable in hairiness and colour. Most commonly found in the leaf litter of damp Beech and Hazel woods (or occasionally Willow and Pine). It is often seen growing in deep shade where nothing else grows. Yellow Birdsnest lacks chlorophyll. It obtains its food through fungi by means of parasitism.
Other Names:
Dutchman's Pipe, False Beech-drops, Pine Drops, Pinesap, Yellow Bird's-Nest, Yellow Pinesap.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Hypopitys monotropa, also known as pine drops or pinesap, is a perennial herb native to North America. It is a member of the Monotropaceae family and is closely related to plants such as Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora). Pine drops is characterized by its small, white, bell-shaped flowers and reddish-brown stem. It is a herbaceous plant that grows in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and meadows. Pine drops is a parasitic plant that obtains its nutrients from the roots of other plants and does not produce chlorophyll. It is often found growing in the presence of pine trees and is sometimes considered a sign of healthy, well-drained soil. Pine drops is not commonly cultivated and is not typically used for ornamental purposes.


Yellow Birdsnest (Hypopitys monotropa) is a species of plant found in North America. It is a parasitic plant, meaning it relies on a host plant for sustenance and does not produce its own food through photosynthesis.

The plant has a yellowish-green flower that is typically about one inch in diameter. It blooms from late spring to early summer and has a strong, sweet fragrance. The plant's unique shape and bright yellow color make it a popular choice for gardens and woodlands.

Yellow Birdsnest is a slow-growing plant and can take several years to mature. It is also a slow-spreading plant, making it ideal for small, contained gardens or woodland areas. The plant prefers shady, moist environments and is often found growing in the understory of deciduous forests.

While Yellow Birdsnest is not considered endangered, it is becoming rarer in some areas due to habitat destruction. Gardeners can help conserve the plant by planting it in their gardens and preserving its natural habitat.

Yellow Birdsnest is also known for its unique relationship with its host plant. The plant is a root parasite, meaning it taps into the roots of its host plant and absorbs its nutrients. It is not known which specific species of plant the Yellow Birdsnest parasites, but it is believed to be a species of tree or shrub.

In addition to its ornamental value, Yellow Birdsnest has cultural significance for some indigenous tribes in North America. The plant was used for medicinal purposes and was believed to have spiritual importance.

Yellow Birdsnest is a hardy plant and can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions. However, it is important to plant it in well-draining soil and provide adequate moisture to prevent the soil from becoming too dry. The plant also prefers partial to full shade and can become leggy and lose its compact shape if grown in full sun.

In cultivation, Yellow Birdsnest is often propagated through division or by seed. It is important to keep the plant out of reach of browsing animals, as the plant's leaves are poisonous.

Yellow Birdsnest is a fascinating plant, not only for its unique parasitic relationship with its host plant but also for its life cycle. Unlike other plants, Yellow Birdsnest does not produce chlorophyll, which is essential for photosynthesis. Instead, it relies on its host plant for its energy and nutrients.

The plant's reproductive cycle is also unique. The flowers of Yellow Birdsnest are monoecious, meaning they have both male and female flowers on the same plant. This allows the plant to self-fertilize, reducing its dependence on pollinators.

Despite its parasitic nature, Yellow Birdsnest is not considered harmful to its host plant. The plant's roots are not invasive and do not damage the roots of the host plant. In fact, the plant may actually provide some benefits to the host plant by increasing its nutrient uptake and helping to retain moisture in the soil.

In terms of wildlife, Yellow Birdsnest is not a significant source of food for birds or animals. However, it is an important part of the forest ecosystem and provides habitat for a variety of insects and other invertebrates.

In conclusion, Yellow Birdsnest is a unique and fascinating plant that is an important part of the forest ecosystem. Its parasitic relationship with its host plant, combined with its monoecious flowers and unique life cycle, make it a valuable and interesting addition to any woodland or garden setting. With proper care and protection, this plant will continue to be an important part of the North American landscape for years to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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