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It is about the size of a hand and only drives out of the ground when it flowers. However, researchers have discovered the tiny plant and named it Sciaphila sugimotoi. The pink-purple plant grows on the subtropical island of Ishigaki in Okinawa, Japan. It does not photosynthesize, but lives as a parasite and feeds on the "root network", the mycelium, mushrooms. Biologists call this diet mycoheterotrophy. Since plants of this species only come to the surface for a short time every year to flower and bear fruit, their discovery is rather the exception - this is a research group led by Kenji Suetsugu of the Kobe University Graduate School of Science. The scientists published their results in the journal Phytotaxa .

Photo: Sugimoto Takaomi

© - Ruth Roebuck
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