To protect a rare underground orchid, researchers are keeping its location top secret

Maree Elliott admitted feeling a bit despondent as she poked around the leaf litter in the Barrington Tops National Park north of Newcastle four years ago.

Ms Elliott, a scientific illustrator, had been looking for a native fungi to draw for her work, but despite hours of searching the 65-year-old retiree was having no luck.

What she stumbled on instead would rewrite scientific literature.

"I got a big stick and I was playing around with the leaf litter, and this lovely pink thing surfaced," she said.

"I didn't know what it was, it certainly wasn't a mushroom or a truffle. It was just a very small, pinky-creamy thing, it was like a half-opened flower bud."

Ms Elliott said an ecologist in her party "got all excited", and immediately identified her unusual find as a form of underground orchid — an extremely rare plant that never naturally pokes its head up above the leaf litter.

"I had no idea what it was, it wasn't until I came home and started doing my own research that I realised that this was an important find," Ms Elliott said.

Read more at ABC (Craig Allen)

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