Western Underground Orchid

Rhizanthella gardneri, also known as Western Underground Orchid only grows and flowers underground.

Photo: Fred Hort
2.5 cm across

“In 1986 we were privileged to see an underground orchid (or two).
I think these were most beautiful flowers and the photos never do them justice.
They are a flower which never sees the light of day, growing and flowering completely underground.
I found this one by watching the ground under a shrub and noticed a small hole where small insects were coming and going. I gently pulled back the leaf litter and found this plant.
In situ, the white bracts of the flower are closed like an onion, so we gently pulled back the bracts for a photo. After the photoshoot the bracts were repositioned and the plant covered.
The flower head is in fact a capitulum which contains many flowers within the bracts. This capitulum had about 40 flowers, each with its own labellum and flower parts. The number of flowers vary between 8 – 90.
This is an endangered plant.
The orchid has a very interesting history.
It was discovered in 1928 by Jack Trott a farmer who was ploughing his field (newly cleared land) after it had been rolled and burnt. He took it to the Perth Herbarium where it was studied and named. Jack Trott offered a 100 pound ($200) reward to anyone who could find another one. Many orchid enthusiasts looked to no avail.
In 1979, a farmer John McGuiness was turning new ground and rediscovered the underground orchid. (It is my understanding that Jack Trott had died the year before and that his widow paid the $200 reward)”

Jean and Fred Hort

Further reading:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhizanthella_gardneri
members.iinet.net.au/~emntee/Rhizanthella_gardnerii7.htm
and
www.news.uwa.edu.au/201102073251/research/was-incredible-…

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