flower

The strange hooded flower of Thismia belumensis

Siti Munirah Mat Yunoh (FRIM)

A crop of delicate white periscopes, each just a few centimetres tall, peek above the leaf litter in a Malaysian rainforest. They may resemble mushrooms, but they are actually the flowers of a parasitic plant species that is totally new to science.

Fairy lanterns (Thismia) are mysterious plants that only briefly emerge from underground as tiny, intricate flowers. Lacking the chlorophyll that helps plants photosynthesise to generate energy, they instead steal nutrients from fungi. Many species have disappeared from human eyes shortly after being discovered, sometimes never …