Bush Roses

Dactylanthus taylorii, better known as a "Wood Rose" or "Bush Rose" is a type of endangered parasitic plant. It grows at the base of some native New Zealand trees, producing a fluted wood structure that resembles a flower (hence the name).

About 1950, Rev. Richard Taylor discovered this strange plant near Hikurangi, a mission station on the Wanganui River. It is now known from many parts of the North Island, from sea level to an altitude of 800m, in forest and in scrub.

The rough dark rhizome, up to 30cm across, looks like a gall on the host root. Between the hard warts covering the surface, softer pinkish brown shoots emerge and push above ground where the uppermost leaves part to expose crowded spikes of tiny flowers.

In the male plant, mealy white pollen accumulates and a distinctive smell is emitted. Dull reddish female flowers, on separate plants, produce hard little fruits that are probably dispersed by water. 

At least a dozen species have been identified as hosts for this unusual plant. After a seedling has attached itself to a suitable rootlet its growth keeps pace with that of the host and the surface of attachment broadens and develops irregular ridges, the root becoming woody while the centre of the rhizome is soft and starchy.

A common practice was to remove the whole rhizome by boiling and scraping, so displaying the fluted end of the root - the so called "Wooden Rose".

The Museum houses a large collection of Dactylanthus taylorii, kindly donated by Merv Addenbrooke.