Genus Epipogium of two species. One is Epipogium Pinkum growing in tropical Asia, Africa and Oceania. The other is Epipogium aphyllum – Ghost Orchid – found in Eurasia.
Epipogium aphyllum – Ghost Orchid
This species is one of the three orchids that lacks chlorophyll and lives as a Saprophytes of dead plant parts. The colour is yellowish to brown, and can occasionally assume a more purple. The flowers are slightly pale yellow, have reddish streaks and the species is between 10 and 20 cm high and usually get from one to four flowers with a sweetish scent.
Ghost Orchid has never developed its own photosynthesis system, but is entirely dependent on its relationship with mushrooms throughout the lifetime. It has a very branched and compact root system that may remind some coral forms. The root system is enclosed by lichen hyphae and an odd year shoot fairy flowers up a pale purple stalk that can have up to seven pale, waxy and yellowish-white flowers.
Ghost Orchid has found its niche in the forest on moist calcareous soils in moss rich needle and mix blunt forests and live an underground life and proves just when it blooms. That is why not many botanists who have seen it. Tucked away in the deep dark forest can flourish in July or August, but it may take many years before again looking Ghost Orchid at the same growing place. In 80% of the Norwegian localities the only seen once. It thus carries its name justice!
The species has an eastern distribution areas and are found in Western Norway only a few places in Sogn. Otherwise very sparingly and spread throughout the country and with its particular fragility and vulnerability of life nothing to line up against modern forestry.
Ghost Orchid is protected under the Nature Diversity Act and stands on Norwegian Red List as near Threatened.