Gulf South Research Corporation

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Sweet Pinesap

Monotropsis odorata

Monotropsis odorata
Monotropsis odorata habitat
sweet pinesap

Monotropsis odorata

State Heritage Status Rankings

Alabama (S1), Delaware (SH), Florida (Not Ranked), Georgia (S1), Kentucky (S2), Maryland (S1),
North Carolina (S3), South Carolina (S1), Tennessee (S2), Virginia (S2S3), West Virginia (SH)



Sweet pinesap is a inconspicuous perennial saprophytic plant approximately 2.5 inches in height, nodding during early flowering and erect when mature. It's leaves and flowers are varible in color ranging from purplish, pinkish, or brownish. Sweet pinesap produces sessile bract-like, widely lanceolate leaves which are merely reduced scales spirally arranged along the glabrous stem and overlaping. The leaves are 4 to 8 mm in length and tapered to an acute or obtuse apex. In February to early March it produces fragrant flowers in bracteate racemes. It has 5 acute or obtuse sepals that are 4 to 9 mm in length (as long as or slightly shorter than the corolla), in an outer whorl. The 5 petals are similar to the sepals, but united for about half their length and only very slightly gibbous at the base. Sweet pinesap has 10 stamens, a capitate stigma, a slightly 5-lobed style which is approximately 1 mm in length. The fruit is an indehiscent 5-locular, globose or subglobose berry. The brown seeds are 0.2 to 0.3 mm in length (Porcher and Rayner 2001 and Radford et. al. 1968).


Sweet pinesap inhabits pine dominated forests and pine-oak heaths. The top center image was taken of a colony in Rabun county, Georgia containing approximately 60 stems of sweet pinesap. Although a complete inventory was not conducted there is a high probability that more specimens existed at the site. The species is very small and seems to blend into the adjacent pine forest floor which is covered with thousands of brown pine needles. This may explain its reported rarity.


Sweet pinesap is a monotypic endemic species centered in the Appalachian Mountains. The species is found more frequently in North Carolina and Virginia and becomes more rare as it reaches the limits of its range, which is from Maryland and West Virginia south to Alabama, Georgia and possibly Florida. The species has a limited distribution and is rare throughout its range. Habitat destruction is a threat to this species' survival (NatureServe 2003).


  • NatureServe. 2003. Internet Resource. NatureServe.

  • Radford, A.E., Ahles, H.E., Bell, C.R. 1968. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

  • Porcher, R. D. and D.A. Rayner. 2001. A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press. pp. 796-797. Columbia, South Carolina. pages 162.

  • USDA, NRCS. 2002. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5. Internet Resource USDA Plants Database. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

  • Weakley, A.S. July 2002. Flora of the Carolinas and Virginia, Working Draft. Internet Resource. Flora of the Carolinas and Virginia.