Western Underground Orchid
Jack Trott had bent to investigate an odd crack that had appeared in his garden’s soil, and had noticed a sweet smell that arose from the ground. Scraping away the soil, he soon uncovered a tiny white flower, about half an inch across, growing underground. What he had found was an entirely new type of orchid. The discovery generated such excitement that a wax model was toured around the British Isles.
The white leafless plant is made up of a fleshy underground storage stem (or tuber), which produces flower head consisting of around 150 tightly packed, tiny flowers. Unlike any other orchid in Australia, the Western Australian underground orchid remains completely underground for its whole life. Not being able to obtain the sun’s energy, it instead feeds on the broom honeymyrtle, a shrub. It is linked to it by a mycorrhizal fungus named Thanatephorus gardneri.
Continuing the saga of the parasitic flower with a contender from our Australian friends, albeit one that is exceedingly rare—there have been fewer than 400 specimens collected in the entire time the plant’s been known. —MN