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Volume 77, 1948-49
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Lyperanthus antarcticus Hook. f. and the New Zealand Forms of Gastrodia R. Br.

[Read before the Auckland Institute, February 19, 1947; received by the Editor, April 14, 1947; issued separately, February, 1949.]


Historical.—Brown (Prodr., 1810, 325) described three species from Australia (L. suaveolens, nigricans, ellipticus). Subsequently two additional species (forrestii, serratus) were discovered in Western Australia, seven more in New Caledonia, and one in New Zealand. Schlechter (Eng. Bot. Jahr., 45, 1911, 384) removed three of the New Caledonian species to form the genus Megastylis and Rupp (Vict. Natr., 58, 1942, 188) removed L. ellipticus to form the genus Rimacola, leaving Lyperanthus with nine species, four in Australia, four in New Caledonia, and one in New Zealand. The genera Lyperanthus, Burnettia, Rimacola and Megastylis have apparently derived from a common stock originating in Australia. The New Zealand form is not closely related to any one Australian species, although it has general affinities with them all. It was probably windborne across the Tasman a very long time ago, and has differentiated so considerably that its congeners cannot be definitely ascertained.

Imperfect specimens of Lyperanthus antarcticus were collected by Hooker from the Auckland Islands in November, 1840. In the first volume of the Flora Antarctica he described them as Orchid No. 8, under the heading dubii generis. Previously (March, 1840) the d'Urville Expedition had collected good flowering specimens from the same locality. Hooker was later enabled to examine these and in the second volume he amended the description and gave the plant its present name. The species was not found on the mainland until 1863.

Lyperanthus R. Br.

Description.—Terrestrial, glabrous herbs with ovoid or globose tubers. Leaves 1–3, basal or cauline. Flowers 1–8 in a terminal raceme. Dorsal sepal incurved, cumulate, deflexed. Lateral sepals as long as the dorsal, narrower, erect or spreading. Petals similar. Labellum much shorter, sessile, 3–lobed at the base, more or less papillose, the lamina often with ridged calli. Column incurved, about as long as the labellum, obscurely winged. Stigma orbicular, high on the column. Rostellum prominent, between stigma and anther. Anther terminal, erect or horizontal, 2-celled. Pollinia 2–4 Pollen granular or mealy.

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1. Lyperanthus antarcticus natural size. a, flower from side; b, labellum from front; c, column with anther removed; d, column and labellum from side.
2. Gastrodia sesamoides natural size. e, flower from side; f, labellum from above; g, column from side; h, column and labellum from side; j, column from front. a-j variously enlarged.

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1. Gastrodia cunninghamii natural size. a, flower from front; b, column and labellum from side; c, labellum and opened perianth (after Petrie); d, column from side (after Petrie).
2. Gastrodia minor natural size. e, column from side; f, column from side (after Petrie—incorrect); g, labellum and opened perianth (after Petrie). a-g variously enlarged.

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1. Lyperanthus antarcticus Hook. f., Fl. Ant., 2, 1847, 544.

Orch. No. 8, Hook, f., Fl Ant., 1, 1844, 71.

Up to 37 cm. high. Leaves up to 3, sessile, cauline, linear- to oblong-lanceolate, coriaceous, acute. Floral bracts large, sheathing, acuminate. Upper flower with a subulate lobe (an undeveloped flower-bud—similar vestiges occur in Adenochilus and in Corybas) at the anterior base of the ovary. Flowers up to 4, greenish with dark chocolate blotches. Dorsal sepal horizontal broad-cumulate, apiculate. Lateral sepals linear-acuminate, as long as the dorsal. Petals similar. Labellum pale green, ovate, subacute, margins turned outwards. Lamina vaguely ridged with pale linear calli. Column incurved, narrowly winged at the top, the wings with small tuberculate lobes extending behind the anther. Column spotted with pink towards the top. Stigma and rostellum raised on a short thick pedicel. Anther horizontal. Pollinia 4, subterete. Pollen granular.

Distribution.—Endemic—7, frequent above 3,000 ft. in the Tararua Ranges; 9, 10, 11, 12a, 13, 15, subalpine areas throughout, not common; 16, “Stewart Is., T. Kirk, Freshwater River, 1, 1947, C. Smith. Also in the Auckland Islands.

Flowers December-February. Sea-level-4,000 ft., subalpine scrub or forest margins, descending to sea-level in the outlying islands.


Nutrition.—The power possessed by fungi to absorb soluble salts and organic matter from the soil has been utilised by many groups of plants for nutritive purposes. In the Orchidaceae this partnership has perhaps reached its greatest variety and complexity. Many genera originally green, have ceased to manufacture chlorophyll and have become entirely dependent on the fungi. Others even though chlorophyllous, have nevertheless a limited association with mycorrhiza, and all are dependent on them for the successful germination of their seed under natural conditions. It is not possible in a paper of this nature to detail the many variations of the symbiotic relationship, but the whole subject, with special reference to the Australasian genera, has been excellently treated by R. S. Rogers in the Presidential address to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (Sydney, 1932, Vol. 21). The New Zealand epiphytic species are dealt with by T. L. Lancaster (Trans. N.Z. Inst., 43, 1910, 186).

Generally it may be stated that the fungus absorbs starch from the cells of the host and uses it in the synthesis of nitrogenous substances which are reabsorbed in turn by the host cells. In some instances the fungal hyphae are used by the host to absorb water from the soil. Gastrodia sesamoides is unique in having a secondary association with nitrogen-fixing bacteria which swarm within the cells of the rhizome and stem. The fungus element in this species is rather weak and the plant obtains its nitrogen by breaking down and digesting these useful micro-organisms.

In the seed the fungus secretes certain sugars which stimulate germination and balance the lack of food reserves which are a feature of the orchid economy.

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Gastrodia R. Br.

Description.—Leafless terrestial saprophytes with large tuberous rhizomes. Stems frequently very tall. Stem bracts short and scalelike. Floral bracts more or less ovate. Flowers in a lax terminal raceme. Sepals and petals united into a 5–lobed tube partly split on one side. Labellum shorter than the perianth, adnate at the base, margins variously undulate, lamina with irregular linear calli. Column erect, elongate or short, with or without wings. Stigma orbicular, convex, at the base of the column. Anther terminal, hemispherical. Pollinia 2, bilobed, caudicle absent. Pollen granular.

A genus of some 15 species occurring in Africa, Formosa, Japan, China, India, Malaya, Philippines, Celebes, New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. Probably Asiatic in origin.


1. Column longer than the labellum sesamoides
Column very much shorter than the labellum 2
2. Column-wings involute, labellum clawed at the base ounninghamii
Column-wings straight, erect, labellum broad at the base minor

1. Gastrodia sesamoides R. Br. Prodr., 1810, 330.

Up to 60 cm. high. Flowers up to 10, dirty-white, pendant, vaguely gibbous. Labellum on a short narrow claw, the base with the margins thickened and brought together in a symmetrical constriction. Lamina recurved, with several irregular linear calli. Underside narrowly cleft, margins inrolled. Column sub-erect, longer than the labellum, column-wings with thickened margins.

Distribution.—Australia—recorded from all the States, not uncommon. New Zealand—2, Kaitaia, R. H. Matthews; Ahipara, 12, 1918, H. B. Matthews. 3a, Northern Wairoa, T. F. Cheeseman; Silverdale, 12, 1946, F. W. Bartlett; Great Barrier Is., 11, 1944, E. G. Hartwell; 4, 5, occasional in lowland areas; 7, Tararua Ranges, 12, 1910, B. C. Aston; 11, Kelly's Creek, D. Petrie.

Flowers August-January, sea-level-2,000 ft., small colonies in scrub or grass. Probably windborne originally across the Tasman.

2. Gastrodia cunninghamii Hook. f. Fl. Nov. Zel., 1, 1853, 251.

G. leucopetala Col. Trans. N.Z. Inst., 18, 1886, 268.

Up to 100 cm. high. Stem brownish-green with purple markings. Flowers up to 40, brownish, mottled with green, pendant, prominently gibbous. Labellum similar to that in G. sesamoides lamina, with 2 linear calli uniting near the tip. Column very short, barely a quarter as high as the labellum. Column-wings involute.

Distribution.—Endemic—not uncommon throughout New Zealand, Stewart and Chatham Islands.

Flowers November-January, sea-level-3,000 ft., small colonies on the forest floor. Probably derived from the Asiatic forms by way of New Guinea.

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3. Gastrodia minor Petr., Trans. N.Z. Inst., 25, 1893, 273, t. 20.

Up to 30 cm. high. Stem plain brown. Flowers up to 9, brownish, sub-erect, vaguely gibbous. Labellum broad at the base, margins crisped, lamina with 2, more or less confluent linear calli. Column similar to that in G. cunninghamii, but with short, erect column-wings.

Distribution. — Endemic — 5, Taupo, 1, 1934, K. W. Allison; National Park, 12, 1921, H. B. Matthews; Murimotu, 3, 1945, E. D. Hatch; 15, Dunedin, D. Petrie; Lake Manapouri, 1, 1945, G. Simpson.

Flowers December-January, sea-level–3,000 ft.; large colonies in grass or scrub. Probably derived from G. cunninghamii.

Petrie's figure of the column is reproduced here for the purpose of comparison, but it is actually incorrect since it represents the column as having no stigma and being in the centre of the ovary. In fact, it has a very distinct stigma and is to one side of the ovary as in the other species.

The descriptions and illustrations have been drawn from living material examined by the writer. Thanks are due to Mr. Cedric Smith, of Stewart Island, for living specimens of Lyperanthus antarcticus, and to Mr. F. W. Bartlett, of Silverdale, for similar material of Gastrodia sesamoides.