On 7 November Kenji Suetsugu, a researcher at Kyoto University announced that he discovered a brand new type of orchid. The flower was found in April of last year on the island of Takeshima (not the same Takeshima that’s in dispute between Japana and Korea) in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Not only is finding a new species of plant a rare occurrence, but this particular orchid is quite unique in that it neither requires photosynthesis to live nor does it bloom at all.

Scientist, Kenji Suetsugu, found around one hundred of these interesting yet unappealing flowers, named Gastrodia takeshimensis, growing wild in a bamboo grove during a research trip. This was lucky since this particular orchid spends most of it’s time underground and only comes out for about a month in the springtime. The rest of the time it feeds off a supply of nutrition taken from fungi attached to its roots.

Such behavior has deemed it worthy of the nickname “NEET of the plant kingdom” by some netizens. Some were concerned that the anti-social behavior of fully grown organisms refusing to go outside most of the year has now spread to vegetation in Japan as well.

For that brief period in the spring the stem of Gastrodia takeshimensis extends about seven to 16 centimeters from the ground. It’s believed this behavior protects it from being eaten by animals. However, even while it’s out of the ground, this orchid remains closed and never blooms.

The very unplantlike combination of never blooming and never using photosynthesis is shared by only one other plant, the Gastrodia clausa. Suetsugu says his next goal is to understand what conditions caused this species to come about.

In total, there are about 50 species of Gastrodia orchids, nine of which can now be found in Japan, and none of which it seems would really brighten up your kitchen much.

Source: Annales Botanici Fennica (English/pdf), Mainichi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko (Japanese)
Image: Kyoto University

Takeshima Island