Geosiris australiensis: the recently discovered flower of the Daintree

By AG Staff 24 July 2017
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Geosiris australiensis is as beautiful as it is parasitic.

A NEW FLOWER, Geosiris australiensis, was discovered by amateur botanists Tim Hawkes and Tony de Groot in the Daintree Rainforest.

Geosiris australiensis was native to the Gondwana Rainforests— the ancient super continent that formed 250 million years ago, before the land mass then broke up into the continents we know today.

Botanists say that the new discovery demonstrates how little we know about the ancient rainforest, situated in the north east coast of Queensland. 

“The Daintree is living up to its name of being a very, very old piece of rainforest,” Bruce Gray, a researcher from the Australian Tropical Herbarium, who formally identified the flower as a new species, told the Cairns Post.

“Obviously these flowers were growing here a long time ago, before the separation of the continents.”

Amateurs, Tim and Tony discovered Geosiris australiensis after catching the flower’s white petals peaking above the leaf litter at Cooper Creek. 

“We were looking for another plant, which myself and a friend found in Mossman Gorge a year earlier,” Tim explained.

“We were looking at other potential spots where this plant could be, so decided to go up into the rainforest, to see whether it was on the other side of the Daintree River.

“We found this plant, which is virtually a stem and nothing else, which had a little bud on it. We looked at it and thought it could be something new,” he added.

The flower is said to be closely related to Geosiris albifloria and Geosiris aphylla species of flower that are only found on the islands of Madagascar and Mayotte, which experts said exposed the evolutionary link between Africa and Australia. 

The flower, while a pretty addition to the plentiful flora of the Daintree rainforest, is really a food stealing parasite, according to Darren Crayn, the director of the Australian Tropical Herbarium, who explained that  the Geosiris australiensis uses a fungi to wreak havoc on other plants.

“The fungus forms filaments in the soil that invade the roots of both the victim and the recipient, which then act as a tunnel through which the food flows to the latter. A nifty little trick,” he told the Cairns Post.