Though this plant is nationally classified as a threatened species, it is in abundance within Egmont National Park. Te Pua O Te Rēinga is New Zealand’s only completely parasitic flowering plant, growing on the roots of host trees.
It is sometimes covered in moss and resembles an irregular woody bulbous hump. It can grow up to 30 cm in diameter and is covered in wart like nodules.
Once a year, Dactylanthus produces flower clusters just above ground level. These are dull purplish to grey brown, strongly scented, and are normally the only visible part of the plant. Flowering occurs from late summer to late autumn while the small nut-like fruit containing a single seed takes at least six months to mature.
Historically in Taranaki Dactylanthus was fairly widely distributed but is now known mainly from populations managed by the Department of Conservation in Egmont National Park and the Waitaanga Conservation Area. Within the park the plant is concentrated within the upper montane forest zone between 900 to 1200 meters above sea level, in damp but well drained sites with fairly open ground cover, near the limits of forest vegetation.