A new orchid

potato-orchidThe forest here never ceases to surprise me with the apparently infinite number of plants or fungi that I have never seen before.
This tall orchid has appeared right beside the grey gum which is right beside the outdoor loo. I walk past here daily — did I miss it yesterday or has it come overnight, encouraged by the damp weather?

It is a total stranger to me — and there is a whole little family of them shooting up through the fallen leaves and bark. At first glance, the shorter ones, unopened, looked like they could be fungi.

My orchid book says it is a Potato Orchid, and I can see why, for the knobbly brown buds. But the opened flowers are prettier than potatoes — their shyly flared frills are fresh and white against the café au lait of their bells. (There is another orchid with the same common name and it looks nothing at all like a potato!)

The botanical name is Gastrodia sesamoides — meaning like sesame seeds — but how? If they are going to name the flower for the bud I’d say peanut rather than either potato or sesame.

I simply cannot call it a Potato Orchid.

4 thoughts on “A new orchid”

  1. I have just noticed this week the same plant for the first time in my garden. Thought it very strange, having no greenery or leaves. But I only have one which came up in the mulch next to my carport where there is only fernery and a delicate tree/shrub. I immediately thought of Lily of the Valley but of course its green.

  2. Thank you Denis; that clears up the name very well. Now why didn’t my orchid book tell me that? And yes it’s at the base of a grey gum.
    Always in awe of your knowledge; thanks for sharing it!

  3. Hi Sharyn
    It has a large tuber underground – that’s where the name comes from.
    They have a mycorrhizal association (with a fungus) whereby they gain energy (food), from a tree. It has no leaves and the stem is brown. It has no chlorophyll and gets its energy requirements via the fungus and the tree.
    Your photo shows a Eucalypt very close in the background. That is typical of the way they grow..
    In that regard they are similar to the Hyacinth Orchids.

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