Discovery of a Very Rare Orchid
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Close-up and enlarged view of the flowering head

of a very rare subterranean orchid,

which Rupp described as a "wonderful discovery".

Cryptanthemis slateri (now Rhizanthella slateri).

Photographs by courtesy of A. W. Stephenson.

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The vegetation is dominated by dry sclerophyll Eucalyptus forests, consisting primarily of Blackbutt mixed with Smooth Barked Apple, Sydney Peppermint, White Stringy Bark, tallowwood, Narrowleaf White Mahogany, Sydney Blue Gum, Forest Oak, Grey Gum, Red Bloodwood, Spotted Gum with Turpentine and Brushbox found in more sheltered sites.

The understory is very open with grasses, bracken fern and some herbaceous plants.

Because of the close proximity to a population center, frequent hazard reduction burns have made the understory drier, with an absence of regeneration.

The upper slopes consisting of rock, has numerous epiphytic plants growing in the crevices. Moreton Bay Figs, grass trees, ferns and numerous orchids can be found.


A small group of ground orchids is saprophytes, plants that are usually leafless and have no chlorophyll to utilize sunlight for growth.

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The Helmet Orchid.

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They are not parasitic, but live on dead and decaying matter, relying on the help of soil fungi which live within their fleshy roots to absorb nutriment. Saprophytes, including the widespread hyacinth orchid, Dipodium punetatum, and the potato orchid, Gastrodia seamoides, are usually found where the soil is rich in organic matter. Other non-saprophytic orchids also enjoy a symbolic relationship with fungi but not to the same extent.

Strangest of all the saprophytes are the two unique and very rare Australian underground orchids. One in Western Australia, Rhizanthella gardneri, was turned up by a plough at Corrigin in 1928. The eastern underground orchid, Cryptanthemis slateri, was first found in 1931 on the lower slopes of the mountain at Bulahdelah in New South Wales. Both live, bloom, and are pollinated underground, the flowers of the western variety appearing above the soil when the seeds are ripe for dispersal.

Also of interest, is the naturally occurring orchid hybrid, Dendrobium delicatum, that differs in habitat and flora characteristics from other hybrids of that type.

Ernest William Slater,

who in November 1934,

discovered the subterranean saprophitic orchid,

which Rupp named

Cryptanthemis slateri

(Photograph taken at Bathurst in 1960.)


The natural forest environment supports a large a varied range of wildlife with wallabies, kangaroos, possums and bandicoots being the most frequently seen.

The number of native animals is diminished by the impact of domestic or feral animals from the surrounding developed area. In recent years these impacts are less as the local community has embraced the ownership of 'their' mountain.

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Copyright 2000, Malcolm Carrall, Archives Officer, The Bulahdelah & Districts Historical Society Inc., 20 Ann Street, Bulahdelah, New South Wales, Australia, 2423. Original content in these Web pages is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be produced by any process or any other exclusive right exercised without written permission from the copyright holder. Published by Malcolm Carrall.

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