Story: Orchids

Potato orchid

Potato orchid

At 1 metre high, the potato orchid or hūperei is New Zealand’s tallest ground orchid. Because it lacks chlorophyll it cannot make its own food by photosynthesis. Instead it has a complex association with a fungus. The potato orchid receives nutrients from the fungus, which in turn obtains sugars and minerals from the roots of forest trees. Each year the plant forms underground tubers that are rich in starch. These were regarded as delicacies by Māori, who sought them out in winter and roasted them in embers or steamed them in a hāngī.

About this item

Private collection
Photograph by Ian St George

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How to cite this page:

Ian St George, 'Orchids - Orchid habitat, features and conservation', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/9933/potato-orchid (accessed 22 September 2017)

Story by Ian St George, published 24 Sep 2007