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Western Underground Orchid - Rhizanthella gardneri
Western Underground Orchid

We’ve all heard about the most endangered animals. Creatures like the critically endangered black rhinoceros are famous, and in some cases have been reduced to just a handful of individuals.

But what are the most endangered plants? They might not be as loveable or cute as animals, but they are just as important to the ecosystem – and humanity relies on that ecosystem.

Two of the most endangered stood out at me as I researched for this topic, they are classed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These plants occupy some of the most inaccessible, remote parts of our planet. They are threatened by habitat destruction, illegal collection, poaching, and competition with invading species.

Western Underground Orchid

The most unusual flower I have discovered on my quest for the endangered happens to be one of the most delicate… Rhizanthella gardneri, also known as Western Underground Orchid spends its entire life…. you have guessed it, underground. It even flowers underground, in late May and early June, producing more than a hundred cream to reddish flowers, and a strong fragrance.

It only lives in western Australia. It lacks chlorophyll so cannot draw energy from sunlight like most plants. Instead it takes nutrients from the roots of fungi that grows alongside it. There are thought to be fewer than 50 plants left in the world.

Coral Tree

Coral TreeThe coral tree, with its bright red flowers and spiny trunk, occurs only in the remote forests of south-east Tanzania. It was declared extinct in 1998, but rediscovered in 2001 in a small patch of forest. However, the forest patch was cleared to grow biofuels, and the species was feared to have gone extinct again, until it was re-rediscovered in 2011.

There are now fewer than 50 mature individuals in the wild which is currently unprotected.

Plants are so important, however, there is little funding offered to protect them. We can do our bit by supporting local and global conservations and spreading the word that that are so many rare natural beauties rapidly being extinct.

To find out more about the endangers plants of our world go to


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