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