Hidden flowers

Plant & zo

The science of plants and more

Hidden flowers

The ever presents of plants makes that we often don’t even notice them. They are not moving, so they are not a direct danger to us. Which is sad as we also don’t see their many fascinating aspects. Did you for example know that there are plants that are literally stay hidden for us? They grow underground. Steal their nutrients from other plants, and pretend they are not here. Only when they flower, they will stick above the ground. At least, most of them.

Some are staying completely underground. These Australian orchids, because that is what I am talking about, belong to the genus Rhizanthella. Three of the four species of this genus live completely underground. Of the fourth, only its flowers come above ground. This is making them difficult to find and to study.

For example, it is still unclear who is actually pollinating these flowers, and who is spreading their seeds. Although, researchers have their suspicions. Termites, fungus gnats, flies, and wasps are part of the candidates that may be pollinating these flowers. With underground living marsupial mammals being the prime suspects for seed dispersal.

Lots of uncertainties about these hidden flowers. Which is making them even more interesting. Look around, who knows you might be able to see a ‘hidden’ flower.


Chris J. Thorogood, Jeremy J. Bougoure, Simon J. Hiscock (2019) Rhizanthella: Orchids unseen. Plants, People, Planet. 1:153–156. https://doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.45

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Published by Femke de Jong

A plant scientist who wants to let people know more about the wonders of plant science. Follow me at @plantandzo

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