Back from the dead - the Ghost Orchid


Back from the dead - the Ghost Orchid

If you spot the Ghost Orchid - you're very lucky indeed. Not only is it one of Britain's rarest plants (thought extinct until 2009), but it flowers once every 30 years!

The orchid's spooky name is rather apt: it is a pale flower - lacking both chlorophyll and leaves - and prefers to grow in poorly lit areas.

Furthermore, it is a plant that came back from the dead: the ghost orchid was thought extinct in the UK until it was found growing in a wood in 2009. 

It remains one of our rarest plants. At the time of its rediscovery, there was only a single plant in a secret location in Herefordshire. It has also been recorded in the Chiltern beechwoods.

Its habitat is woodland. The ghost orchid relies on nutrients from rotting vegetation and is thus confined to deep, moist leaf litter in shaded parts of old beechwoods.

Unlike most plants, the ghost orchid doesn’t use sunlight to produce food, instead relying on a special kind of fungi. It has no leaves or chlorophyll, emerging from the soil only to flower and seed. It’s also pale, diminutive and can wait more than 30 years between flowering. It’s no wonder it’s so difficult to find.

And, when spotted in one location, it usually never flowers again there but pops up somewhere else!

Further reading

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