Newly Discovered Australian Plant Smells Like Rotting Fish

Posted on January 30, 2015

Thismia megalongensis

An unusual new plant species has been discovered in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia. The plant sprouts tiny orange flowers that resemble coral. These flowers smell like dead rotting fish.

Greg Steenbeeke, a Senior Threatened Species Officer at the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, was one of three scientists to identify the new species. It has been named Thismia megalongensis. Another unusual feature of the plant is that it lacks roots and leaves and appears to live off of a fungus.

Steenbeeke says in a statement, "This is a most unusual discovery as this plant, Thismia megalongensis, appears to lack roots and leaves, and lives off a fungus to survive. While it has a beautiful appearance with tiny orange flowers, this is no rose; the orange flowers give off a fungal odour when fresh and start to smell like 'rotting fish' as they decay."

Steenbeeke thinks the foul odor is linked to the plant living off the fungus. He says the fungi "transfers nutrients from decaying and dead organisms and leaves in the soil directly to other plants."

The plant was first noticed by Colin Hunt, a horticulture teacher, in 2011. However, it was not identified as a new species until now. A research paper on the news species was published in the Telopea Journal of Plant Systematics and can be found here.

Thismia megalongensis growing in the forest of the Blue Mountains in NSW


Photos: Greg Steenbeeke