Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rhizanthella slateri - rare underground orchid

This very unusual and very rare eastern orchid lives under the ground as rhizomes. When it wants to flower, it comes up to the surface and breaks the surface but is still under the leaf litter, and that's where it flowers.

Eastern underground orchids have been spotted at just a handful of sites in NSW and southern QLD, but scientists think there may be more undiscovered colonies of this rare and unusual prehistoric orchid. Through painstaking field work about a dozen of this endangered orchids were identified - but the exact locations were kept secret from the public.

Scientists are celebrating saving of this unusual orchid from the blades of a bulldozers on the NSW central coast earlier this year and their protection from a new highway project, north of Newcastle. They collected the plants for seed and transported them 430 km south to Canberra, but never expected them to survive and to flower. But they have - sending up several red-brown heads of flowers about the size of 20 cent piece - living scientists, and all orchid enthusiasts hopeful for the future of the species. They are planning to introduce this orchid back into the wild and ensure the long-term survival of this rare plant.
There was also extensive negotiations with RTA ( Roads and Traffic Authority) and the route of the highway was altered to avoid the known colonies of rhizanthella slateri, while other native plants were salvaged from the bulldozers.

So, here it is - extremely rare underground orchid saved for future generations to admire and to study and preserve and cherish and the motorists using soon-to-be-completed highway bypass North of Newcastle will notice strange bends in the highway - they actually tweaked the highway... it's got slight kink in it, because the orchid's there.


  1. How unique! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow Klara that is amazing! I've been to Newcastle from Sydney and your post somehow sent me down memory lane. For the orchid i am glad Australia is really keen on preserving the bio-heritage, which is not equalled by other countries, especially by ours. It might not be in Wikipedia yet so maybe a clearer photo follow-up or a macro shot in your site is much appreciated. Thank you so much.

  3. Some good news about an endangered species for a change and a very unusual orchid. Glad to know about it.

  4. Amazing and completely unexpected flower. I love learning how hard scientists are working to save this plant from extinction.

  5. This one is really unusual and rare orchid, like some pre-historic creature with many mysteries and wonderful discoveries and needs to be preserved and saved.

  6. Dear Klara, A prehistoric orchid -- how wonderful! Thank you for sharing this rare beauty. P x