Deer in Spring Landscape

Sweet Pinesap

photo of sweet pinesap

Sweet Pinesap, Monotropsis odorata
Photograph by R.H. Wiegand

The Sweet Pinesap, Monotropsis odorata, is not a photosynthetic plant, meaning it does not produce its own food. The plant is a saprophyte, deriving its nutrients from soil fungi. It has no chlorophyll. The preferred habitat of this perennial dicot is sandy, dry, old forests.

Historically, this plant was known from seven sites in Maryland. Currently, the only known extant population is in Calvert County. The flowers of the Sweet Pinesap can generally be seen from mid-February through late April.

The feature which has earned this species its name is its uncommonly strong fragrance. The cinnamon-like scent released by Sweet Pinesap is so strong that it can be used to help locate the plant, which is only a few inches tall and usually hidden under fallen leaves. With its several small pinkish blossoms drooping from the top of a short stem, this showy plant is an interesting contrast to the usually drab saprophytes and parasitic plants.

The Sweet Pinesap is an Endangered Species in the State of Maryland.

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