Western Underground Orchid Facts
- Most notably, the incredible Western Underground Orchid lives and blooms entirely beneath the surface. Due to this unbelievable fact, it’s an incredibly rare and remarkable type of plant.
- Therefore, regrettably, botanists cannot definitively ascertain just how many of these unique flowers may exist.
- In addition, the befuddling discovery, occurring in 1928 was entirely accidental since it is a subterranean species. Also, only 19 mature specimens are known to exist in the wild.
- It evolved as part of an extremely unique and specialized ecosystem. It appears to be entirely dependent upon the presence of a specific species of shrub and a specific variety of fungus.
- Finally, at the moment, the IUCN has no listing for the species. This occurs due to the understandable lack of sufficient information.
Western Underground Orchid Physical Description
Firstly, the Western Underground Orchid is an entirely subterranean plant. Therefore, the unique plant 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 utterly fascinating symbiotic development. It draws all of its nourishment from one rather rare species of shrub, the broom honey myrtle. This makes for a complicated system.
A unique type of fungus also links the two plants. In fact, the orchid receives all of its nutrients, water, and carbon dioxide from the shrub, through the fungus.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Angiosperms
- Class: Monocots
- Order: Asparagales
- Family: Orchidaceae
- Genus: Rhizanthella
- Species: R. gardneri
Western Underground Orchid Distribution, Habitat, and 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. However, 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 it is capable of both sexual and asexual reproduction.
Further, presumably, insects such as termites and gnats possibly serve as the principal pollinators of this species. The plants also appear to take 6 months to reach maturity.
The most serious threats to the species consist of climate change and habitat loss. This holds true because bushland comprises its only known habitat. However, that obviously may not remain the case, as more information becomes available.