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New orchid species discovered in Japan



April 26, 2017

Two new species of rare parasitic orchids have been discovered in the Yanbaru forests of Japan, providing some fascinating insights into the diversity of this hugely varied family.

Kenji Suetsugu, Associate Professor at Kobe University of Graduate School of Science, recently published detailed descriptions of the species in the online journal, Phytotaxa.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this discovery is that the two species described, Gastrodia nipponicoides and Gastrodia okinawensis, do not photosynthesise at all!  They belong to a group of plants called myco-heterotrophs, which derive some or all of their nutrition from parasitising fungi.

One of the new parasitic orchids discovered in Japan, Gastodia okinawensis. Image from Kobe University


Parasitic orchids are not unheard of, but they are incredibly illusive species because they only appear above ground very briefly when in flower.

Find out more here.

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6 years ago

parasitic or saprophitic ?

James Beattie
6 years ago
Reply to  chris

Hi Chris,

Biologically-speaking, a saprophytic organism is one that lives on decaying organic matter. These orchids are true parasites because they derive all of their nutrition from parasitising fungi (fungi which live on decaying organic matter!). They are more accurately called myco-heterotrophs in biological jargon for this reason.