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.

Using this item

Private collection
Photograph by Ian St George

This item has been provided for private study purposes (such as school projects, family and local history research) and any published reproduction (print or electronic) may infringe copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user of any material to obtain clearance from the copyright holder.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Ian St George, 'Orchids - Orchid habitat, features and conservation', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 February 2024)

Story by Ian St George, published 24 Sep 2007