Gastrodia cunninghamii


Gastrodia: belly tooth (flower centre)
cunninghamii: Named after Allan Cunningham (1791 – 1839) who was an English botanist and explorer, primarily known for his travels to Australia (New South Wales) and New Zealand to collect plants. Author of Florae Insularum Novae Zelandiae Precursor, 1837-40 (Introduction to the flora of New Zealand).

Common Name(s)

black orchid, black potato orchid, perei

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Gastrodia cunninghamii Hook.f.



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class





Endemic. North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands. Uncommon north of the Waikato.


Usually montane and mostly in beech (Nothofagus Blume) dominated forests. Often found in montane pine forest plantations. Sometimes found at lower altitudes in dark hollows within forest, especially in naturally cold sites.


Terrestrial, saprophytic, deciduous, fleshy, perennial herb lacking chlorophyll. Rhizome mycorrhizal, tuberous, rather swollen, short-lived, extensively branched, individual sections up to 250 x 50 mm, dull pale brown to brownish-black, often covered in chartaceous scales and scale-leaves, especially toward the active apex. Plant at flowering up to 1.4 m tall. Stem 4-10 mm diameter, dark brown to brown-black with lighter brown coloured, small spots, erect, stout or slender, rather brittle when fresh. Scale leaves widely spaced, chartaceous. Flowers up to 100, unscented, erect to pendulous (rarely with the flower touching the stem axis), tuberculate, tubercules paler in colour. Perianth 14-20 x 4-6 mm, brownish, brownish-black, or greenish; lobes slightly thickened toward margins. Lateral sepals fused slightly above the gibbous base but with their margins lying close together, often more or less overlapping. Labellum 10 x 4 mm, white or cream, membranous, not irritable, completely enclosed within floral tube (apex just visible), oblong, trilobed, base thickened, twisted and fused for most of length of perianth-tube, lateral-lobes with upturned, irregular, crenate-cristate, margins; mid-lobe yellowish with flat but irregular margins, bearing several long median, cristate, yellowish calli, apex black or brown. Column much shorter than labellum, wing minute, present as a more or less curved process; anther terminal, erect and bending forwards, short and broad, operculate, filament transversely pleated at the back, pollen breaking into angular granules; stigma basal, immediately below anther, broadly ellipsoid, hollow; rostellum flap-like, positioned under anther.

Similar Taxa

Gastrodia cunninghamii is most likely to be confused with G. cooperae and G. molloyi species from which it is easily distinguished by the short rather than long column (thus the column is not visible at the flower mouth). From G. sesamoides it is distinguished by the tuberculate surfaces of the stem and flowers, and short, rather than long column.


October - March

Flower Colours



December - May

Propagation Technique

A saprophytic species which should not be removed from the wild. Difficult to grow.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = c.40, 40

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Minute seeds are wind dispersed (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Not commercially available

Cultural Use/Importance

The tubers were a much sought after food by Maori.


Fact Sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange (14 April 2008). Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970)

References and further reading

Given, D.R. 1959.An unusual occurrence of Gastrodia cunninghamii Hooker. Auckland Botanical Society Journal, 16: 3-4

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. II. Government Printer, Wellington.

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309

NZPCN Gastrodia Key prepared by Jeremy Rolfe (pdf, 1.2Mb)

This page last updated on 2 Oct 2016