The western underground orchid (Rhizanthella gardneri) spends its entire life underground. It even flowers underground, in late May and early June, producing more than a hundred cream to reddish flowers, and a strong fragrance.
It only lives in the Broom bush shrubland in western Australia. It lacks chlorophyll so cannot draw energy from sunlight like most plants. Instead it takes nutrients from the roots of broom bush, by parasitizing the fungi associated with it.
There are thought to be fewer than 50 plants. The species has not been assessed by the IUCN, but Western Australia classes it as critically endangered.
photo: Andrew Brown