Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids

Epipogium roseum

Ghost Orchid, Leafless Nodding Orchid

Epipogium roseum (D.Don) Lindl., J. Proc. Linn. Soc., Bot. 1: 177 (1857). Limodorum roseum D.Don, Prodr. fl. Nepal 30 (1825); Ceratopsis rosea (D.Don) Lindl., Gen. sp. orchid. pl. 384 (1840); Galera rosea (D. Don) Blume, Mus. Bot. 2: 188 (1856). Type: In Nepalia superiore, N. Wallich s.n. (holo BM; iso K-LINDL).

Galera nutans Blume, Bijdr. 416 (1825); Epipogum nutans (Blume) Rchb.f., Bonplandia 5: 36 (1857). Type: Java, Mt. Salak, Zollinger 506 (holo W).

Podanthera pallida Wight, Icon. Pl. Ind. Orient 5: t. 1759 (1852). Type: (holo K-LINDL; icon t. 1759).

Epipogium sp. F.Muell., Fragm. 8: 30 (1872); Epipogum guilfoylii Benth. Fl. Austral. 6: 308 (1873), pro. syn. Type: Tweed River, Guilfoyle s.n. (MEL not found).

Epipogum tuberosum Duthie, Ann. Roy. Bot. Gard. (Calcutta) 9: 151 (1906). Types: Kashmir, in the Sind Valley at 6,000 feet, C.B. Clarke 31230 (syn ?CAL); Liddar Valley 8-9,000 feet, Sep. Duthies collector 25386 (syn ?CAL).

Epipogium africanum Schltr., Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 45: 399 (1911). Type: Cameroun, Ambas Bay, Feb. 1861, Mann 784 (holo K; iso K-LINDL).

Galera rolfei Hayata, J. Coll. Sci. Imp. Uni. Tokyo 30: 348 (1911); Icon. pl. formos. 2: 121, f. 64 (1914). Type: Okinawu: a saprophyte in mountain forests, S. Tanaka 157 (holo TAI; iso TNS).

Galera kusukusense Hayata, Icon. pl. formos. 4: 121, t. 20 (1914); Epipogium kusukusense (Hayata) Schltr., Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. Beih. 4: 153 (1919). Type: Kusukusu, July 1912, B. Hayata and S. Sasaki s.n. (holo ?TAI).

Gastrodia schinziana Kraenzl. in Vierteljahrsschr. Nat. Ges. Zurich 74: 66 (1929). Type: New Caledonia, 19 Dec.1924, A.Ü. Däniker 822 (holo Z).

Epipogium pooneranthum Fukuyama, Trans. Nat. Hist. Soc. France 32: 243 (1942). Type: Iriote: Uranchi-gawa, Yadibira, Fukuyama 7123 (holo TAI).


Occurs in north-eastern Queensland from Mount Windsor Tableland to the Macleay River in New South Wales.

Altitude: 0-800 m.

Also distributed extensively overseas, occuring in Asia, India and Africa.


Leafless terrestrial herb forming small colonies. Rhizome horizontal, elongate, without roots, up to 60 mm long, fleshy, wrinkled. Inflorescence a terminal raceme, erect, 200-600 mm tall, dull yellow, fleshy, hollow, nodding when in bud, upright in flower; pedicels 3-5 mm long. Flowers numerous, resupinate, nodding, tubular, 10-12 mm long, cream, pale yellowish or pinkish, with conspicuous plump ovary. Sepals and petals similar, not expanding widely, linear, 10-12 mm long, somewhat fleshy, apices acuminate. Labellum unlobed, ovate, 11-14 mm x 5 mm, base with deep spur directed towards ovary. Callus consisting of central raised plate and irregular rows of numerous small calli. Column 2-2.5 mm long. Column foot absent. Capsules porrect to pendulous, dehiscent.


Occurs in high rainfall areas, particularly rainforests but also open forests, woodlands and grasslands, and occasionally in gardens. The plants are pale and unable to photosynthesise, relying instead on a beneficial association with mycorrhizal fungi that live in the decaying wood where they grow. They occur in small groups, surviving there only as long as the host wood is in a suitable stage of decay. The plants are above ground for 1-2 weeks, appearing after the first soaking rains in the wet season and taking only a few days from flowering to seed dispersal.

Highly localised.

Flowering period: December-March.

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