Gastrodia sesamoides

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Potato Orchid
Orchid Mackeral Track.jpg
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Australia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Genus: Gastrodia
Species: G. sesamoides
Binomial name
Gastrodia sesamoides

Gastrodia sesamoides is a saprophyte in the Orchid family.[1] Common names include Potato Orchid, Native Potato, Bell Orchid and Cinnamon Bells.

The Potato Orchid is found in Australia and New Zealand. This leafless plant occurs in a variety of habitats; often growing in leaf litter in high rainfall areas. Indigenous Australians have been known to eat the tubers,[2] hence the potato reference in the common name. Aboriginal peoples located the plants in habitat by observing where bandicoots had scratched in search of the tubers after detecting the plants underground by scent.[3] The flavour of the tuber is said to resemble that of the beetroot, though insipid and watery.[4] 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.[5] The root tubers may grow to 15 cm (6 in) long and 4 cm (1.5 in) thick.

The original specimen was collected at Sydney in 1803.[6] But now it is considered rare or extinct near Sydney.[5] Flowering occurs between August and January, on a raceme. The flowers are self-pollinating and produce an appealing cinnamon-like scent. The flowers are somewhat unusual, as the sepals and petals are fused into a tube. Stems are between 30 and 60 cm (12–24 in) tall.[7]

A difficult plant to grow in cultivation. The fungal and bacterial agents need to be present, and root disturbance is often fatal. Fungicides and fertilizers are to be avoided. A sheltered humus rich situation is preferred. Propagation from seed is not easy, and the collection of seeds in the wild is often illegal.[4][8]

The specific epithet sesamoides refers to a supposed similarity to the sesame plant.[5] This species first appeared in scientific literature in the year 1810, in the Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae, authored by the prolific Scottish botanist Robert Brown.[6]


  1. ^ "Gastrodia sesamoides". Plant Net – Flora Online. Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  2. ^ "Potato Orchid". Plant Use. Australian National Botanic Gardens. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  3. ^ Early western district (Vic.) settler gives account of local Aboriginal people gathering Potato Orchid tubers, digging where bandicoots had scratched. (Dawson in Zola & Gott, 1992:38)
  4. ^ a b "Potato Orchid". Aussie Gardening. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c Les Robinson – Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney, ISBN 978-0-7318-1211-0 page 248
  6. ^ a b "Gastrodia sesamoides R.Br.". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government. 
  7. ^ Fairley, Alan; Moore, Philip (2000). Native Plants of the Sydney District:An Identification Guide (2nd ed.). Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo Press. p. 390. ISBN 0-7318-1031-7. 
  8. ^ "Gastrodia sesamoides". Plants for a Future. Retrieved 29 September 2011.