Dactylanthus taylorii

Common Name(s)

Wood rose, pua o te reinga, flower of Hades

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
2004 - Serious Decline


2012 - CD, PD, RF, Sp
2009 - CD, PD, RF, Sp


Dactylanthus taylorii Hook.f.



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Herbs other than Composites


None known.


Distributed from Northland down to the Wairarapa. Historically recorded in the Kahurangi National Park area of northern South Island.


Dactylanthus grows parasitically on the roots of about 30 species of native hardwood trees and shrubs such as Griselinia littoralis and Pseudopanax arboreus and Pittosporum tenuifolium. The plant prefers damp but well drained places and is often found at the head of small streams. It has been found at altitudes from near sea level to 1200m.


Dioecious, achlorophyllous, holoparasitic, root-parasite. Rhizomes mostly buried just below soil surface, usually terminal on host root and attached over a broad irregular surface to expanded end of host root; ± hemispherical, globose, up to 600 mm diameter, surface dark brown, externally covered with hard angular or warty papillae and old flower and fruiting bases, internally fleshy and ± starchy. Shoots seasonal, numerous, arising irregularly and mostly from base of rhizomes, unbranched 100–300 × 10–15 mm long, covered with glossy, dark brown, maroon-brown to red-brown, membranous, sessile, imbricating scale leaves; lamina 5–20 × 5–9 mm, broadly deltoid, claw-like, long-tapering from base, subacute to acute, entire, glabrous, becoming larger and paler toward shoot apex. Inflorescence a terminal capitulum of 15–28 spadices, 20–40 mm diameter, surrounded by an involucre of brown, cream, pink, red or yellow scale leaves, these up to 30 × 15 mm; spadix-axis erect, 20–25 mm long, ± grooved, flowers crowded on upper 2/3, occasionally diffusely scattered, sometimes admixed with bracts in lower 1/3. Flowers densely crowded; male perianth segments, 0–4 filamentous; stamen usually 1, rarely 2, subsessile or sessile, filament 0.2–0.45 mm, anther bilobed, white, pollen whitish, abundant; female perianth segments 2, usually unequal, adnate to ovary, ovary 2-loculed, style > ovary, filiform, stigma simple. Fruit 1.5–1.8 mm, ovate, asymmetric, angular, dark purple-brown to black brown, terminal end bearing remnant style and perianth. Nut 1.3–1.5 mm, elliptic to elliptic-ovate, asymmetric, glossy dark red-brown or purple-brown, glabrous.

Similar Taxa

None but sometimes confused with galls and root galls found on beech trees, Rhizobium and Frankia nodules and other growths on exposed roots and basal trunks have been collected as wood rose. Dactylanthus can be distinguished from these by the presence of small circular scars on the exposed tuber left by former buds and flowering shoots.


January to May

Flower Colours



January to August

Propagation Technique



Habitat destruction, collectors of wood roses and browsing animal such as possums. Cattle destroy plants through trampling. Decline in numbers of short-tailed bats may have also caused a decline in this species. Rats and pigs are also major browsing threats alongside possums.

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Fleshy nuts are dispersed by granivory and water (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Not available for sale.

Further information

For further information or to join Friends of Dactylanthus newsletter distribution list contact Paul Cashmore, DOC Dactylanthus Recovery Group leader (pcashmore@doc.govt.nz).

Dactylanthus Revovery Plan (DOC)



Factsheet and description prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange. Description based on Allan (1961) and additional observations of herbarium specimens by P.J. de Lange.

References and further reading

Allan, H.H. 1961. Flora of New Zealand. Volume I. Indigenous Tracheophyta: Psilopsida, Lycopsida, Filicopsida, Gymnospermae, Dicotyledones.Wellington, Government Printer.

Hill, H. 1926. Dactylanthus Taylori.Order Balanophoreae; Tribe Synomorieae. Transactions and proceedings of the Royal Society, Vol. 56.

Image of Dactylanthus - rhizome and pistillate flowers (Transactions of the NZ Institute, Vol 56).

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309


Ju, H-J.; Hu, J-M.; Anderson, F.E.; Der, J.P.; Nickrent, D.L. 2015: Phylogenetic relationships of Santalales with insights into the origins of holoparasitic Balanophoraceae. Taxon 64 (3): 491–506.

This page last updated on 10 Aug 2015