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Botanical Name: Gastrodia sesamoides
Species: G. sesamoides
Common Names: Potato Orchid, Native Potato, Bell Orchid and Cinnamon Bells.
Habitat : Gastrodia sesamoides is native to Australia, New Zealand. It grows in open forest and scrub from the coast to the sub-alpine zone, mainly north of latitude 42°s, in the North and South Islands of New Zealand. This leafless plant occurs in a variety of habitats; often growing in leaf litter in high rainfall areas.
Gastrodia sesamoides is a perennial orchid plant growing with erect stemto up to 1 metre high and 2-7mm in diameter. Stout or slender. Swollen underground rhizomes to 8 x 3cm.The plant has no leaves, only scale leaves widely spaced up the stem. It blooms during October to January.
There are to 20 flowers or more per stem. Each 1 – 1.5cm in length. Drooping. Outer surface smooth, coloured light brown to white. Inside of the flower white. Labellum to 10mm long, the tip near the opening of the lateral sepals. Labellum white with a yellow tip. Column visible, similar in length to the labellum.
The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain. A saprophytic herb, it is without green parts and is entirely dependant upon a fungus for its nutriment. This makes it very difficult to cultivate outside its native range. As well as its fungal host, it also requires a damp humus-rich soil in a sheltered woodland position. Orchids are, in general, shallow-rooting plants of well-drained low-fertility soils. Their symbiotic relationship with a fungus in the soil allows them to obtain sufficient nutrients and be able to compete successfully with other plants. They are very sensitive to the addition of fertilizers or fungicides since these can harm the symbiotic fungus and thus kill the orchid.
Seed – surface sow, preferably as soon as it is ripe, in the greenhouse and do not allow the compost to dry out. The seed of this species is extremely simple, it has a minute embryo surrounded by a single layer of protective cells. It contains very little food reserves and depends upon a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil-dwelling fungus. The fungal hyphae invade the seed and enter the cells of the embryo. The orchid soon begins to digest the fungal tissue and this acts as a food supply for the plant until it is able to obtain nutrients from decaying material in the soil. It is best to use some of the soil that is growing around established plants in order to introduce the fungus, or to sow the seed around a plant of the same species and allow the seedlings to grow on until they are large enough to move. Division in autumn. The plant is very intolerant of root disturbance, any moving or dividing should be attempted in the autumn, keep a large ball of soil around the plant
Edible Uses :
Edible Parts: Leaves; Root.
Root – raw or cooked. It resembles a beetroot in flavour but is watery and insipid. The root can be up to 15cm long and 4cm thick. Leaves. Eaten by the Australian Aborigines in Tasmania. The flavour of the tuber is said to resemble that of the beetroot, though insipid and watery.
Within the tubers are beneficial bacteria and fungi. The fungal filaments supply soil nutrients to the plant and the root bacteria synthesizes nitrogen for the plant. The root tubers may grow to 15 cm (6 in) long and 4 cm (1.5 in) thick.