March 8, 2010
March 8 - Rhizanthella gardneri
Many people, myself included, enjoy the beautiful flowers of orchids. And right now, at least three U.S. botanical gardens (MOBOT ,NYBG, and the Cleveland Botanical Garden) are featuring their yearly orchid shows. The ones that are out for display and that are kept as houseplants typically feature long, delicate flower stalks that are peppered with multiple, brightly colored flowers. Rhizanthella gardneri is an orchid as well, albeit not one that most people would use to decorate their home or office. It’s a parasitic orchid native to Australia, that spends its entire life completely underground, feeding off another species of plant, the broom honey myrtle plant, Melaleuca uncinata, using a fungal partner called Thanetophorus gardneri. Surprisingly, R. gardneri can reproduce sexually, and it’s thought that it attracts pollinators via its strong-smelling flowers that animals dig up. Some have speculated that it is dispersed via fruit-eating marsupials, but very little is known about these plants.
Image from this site.