Flower of the underworld

I’m just back from my first sighting of the “flower of the underworld”, Dactylanthus taylorii or pua o te reinga.

This was a Manawatu Botanical Society trip, led by Todd McLay of Massey University, to see a nearby, accessible population.

A plant of Dactylanthus taylorii, sitting amongst the leaf litter. It is not an especially striking sight when not flowering. Todd saw this population flowering this time last year. Photo Leon Perrie.

It was exciting to be shown Dactylanthus taylorii, which is a very odd plant! It is a root parasite, and produces no leaves. A distinctive scar – a “wood rose” – is formed on the host’s root where it is attached. The flowering inflorescences are comparatively large, and can betray the presence of what is otherwise a very cryptic plant. The flowers are bat-pollinated.

Unfortunately, Dactylanthus taylorii has become very rare, because of introduced mammals (including humans), and it is rated as “Nationally Vulnerable”.

More on Dactylanthus taylorii:

Department of Conservation

New Zealand Plant Conservation Network

Wikipedia

I saw a related plant, Balanophora, in Queensland during my field-work there last year.

2 Responses

  1. Leon Perrie

    I’ve never seen a Dactylanthus flower in the field, so I don’t have my own photos. However, you can see images of flowers at these websites:
    http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.asp?ID=122
    http://www.ngamanuimages.org.nz/search.php?search=dactylanthus

    Reply
  2. flowers wonthaggi

    A photo of the flower of the underworld would be good.

    Reply

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