Ever since he heard the rare mycoheterotrophic orchid Danhatchia (Yoania) australis, grew in the South Island under nikau at Kaihoka Lakes in Golden Bay and at Okiwi Bay on the edge of the Marlborough Sounds, botanist Phillip Simpson has been searching for it in Abel Tasman National Park. Now his search has been rewarded.
“Well, who could believe, it has been growing beside the Wainui Falls track where thousands of people have been passed it over the last few months. To be fair, its not exactly conspicuous – it looks like a pale stick, and there are plenty of those. But to those with an obsessive eye, like me, it stood out grandly, in a diminutive way – just six cm tall, and leafless.
“Mycoheterotrophic orchids lack chlorophyll, and do not photosynthesise, instead living through a fungal association in the soil. We can now add this rare and unusual orchid to the Abel Tasman species list. It is one of those rare species, more common in Northland, absent from the geologically younger lower half of North Island, and then reappearing in the northern South Island. Why it is only associated with nikau is a mystery but there are some other fungi that help decay the palm fronds, so it may be the soil chemistry that allows it.”