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Dipodium variegatum

(Slender Hyacinth Orchid)

A leafless saprophyte, this orchid is commonly found in open forest. It produces a slender, green flower stem up to 60cm tall bearing a dozen or so cream flowers with heavy maroon blotches, each about 20mm across. Not to be confused with the locally occurring but rare Dipodium pulchellum, D. variegatum differs in having darker-coloured flowers with a humped ovary and both ovary and pedicel are variegated with maroon blotches. (D. pulchellum has much pinker flowers, lacks the humped ovary, and has uniformly coloured pedicel and ovary.)

There is some variation in flower with the two shown below found within 200m of each other.

Like all such saprophytic orchids, it cannot be successfully transplanted or cultivated in the home garden. In the absence of chlorophyll in the leafless plant itself, it survives by living in a complex symbiotic relationship with a mycorrhizal fungus in its roots which provides the necessary nutrients for growth and reproduction. The fungus itself derives nutrients from a nearby source, probably the roots of a nearby, mature Eucalyptus tree. If you are lucky enough to have any such orchid growing naturally, treasure it; it is the product of ecological complexity beyond any orchid-loving gardener!

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