Western Underground Orchid Facts
- The Western Underground Orchid lives and blooms entirely beneath the surface. It’s an incredibly rare and remarkable type of plant.
- Botanists, regrettably, cannot definitively ascertain just how many of these unique flowers may exist
- Its discovery in 1928 was entirely accidental since it is a subterranean species. Most notably, only 19 mature specimens are known to exist in the wild.
- It has evolved as part of an extremely unique and specialized ecosystem. It is entirely dependent upon the presence of a specific species of shrub and a specific variety of fungus.
Western Underground Orchid Physical Description
The Western Underground Orchid is an underground plant, therefore it has no need for coloring. The chemical chlorophyll does not appear in its chemical composition.
In addition, it boasts a white, leafless stem, and a flower head. Also, the flower head itself is made of 150 tiny, densely packed blooms. Yet it is tiny, averaging only 0.5 in (1.27 cm) across.
Its most noteworthy characteristic is its symbiotic development. It draws all of its nourishment from one rather rare species of shrub, the broom honey myrtle.
A unique type of fungus also links the two plants, and the orchid receives all of its nutrients, water, and carbon dioxide from the shrub, through the fungus.
Species: R. gardneri
Western Underground Orchid Ecology
The Western Underground Orchid remains extremely rare, and only a few specimens have ever been found. The full extent of the species’ range, therefore, remains uncertain. All specimens discovered to date have been in Western Australia.
Botanists know little about the species because of its rarity, yet we do know that the orchid blooms between May and June. We also know that they are capable of both sexual and asexual reproduction.
Presumably, insects such as termites and gnats are possibly the principal pollinators of this species.
The plants also appear to take 6 months to reach maturity.
The most serious threat to the species is habitat loss since bushland comprises their only known habitat.