Sure enough, as the weeks went by, it became clear that these were indeed the Indian pipe plant.
As they raised themselves further above ground, their shapes became familiar to me: a stem, with a few white leaves ending in a drooping white flower. The plants are white because they lack the energy-making chlorophyll, so instead they are parasites, like fungi, and their hosts are fungi.
It is very startling to come across these white flowers, the only white, except for the occasional pale mushroom, in an environment of brown and green. They are graceful, and seem so incredibly vulnerable.
Indian pipe seems too strange to be like other flowers, having stamens and pistil, but one day I happened to see a bumblebee in the woods, going from one flower to another. This prompted me to take a look inside, and sure enough, those flowering parts were there. I learned from the Indian pipe link above that the plant, pollinated by the bumblebees, will later form seeds. A flowering plant, ordinary and wondrous.