Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids

Nervilia holochila

Ribbed Shield Orchid

Nervilia holochila (F.Muell.) Schltr., Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 39: 48 (1907).

Pogonia holochila F.Muell., Fragm. 5: 200 (1866). Type: Ad sinum Rockingham’s Bay, J. Dallachy s.n. (holo MEL; iso MO).


Occurs in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, in the northern parts of the Northern Territory, and in north-eastern Queensland on some Torres Strait islands and from Cape York to Bowen.

Altitude: 0-300 m.

Also occurs in New Guinea.


Terrestrial herb forming clonal colonies. Sterile plants a solitary leaf only. Fertile plants initially a terminal inflorescence, a single leaf arising later from base of scape. Tubers solitary, fleshy, rounded, 1.2-3 cm wide. Leaf solitary, stiffly erect, apical, petioles 3-5 cm long; lamina broadly ovate, 15-20 cm x 5-7 cm, dark green, pleated with 7 prominent veins, apex acute to acuminate. Inflorescence a terminal raceme, 150-250 mm tall, fleshy; peduncle elongating in fruit. Flowers 1-6, resupinate, porrect to nodding, star-shaped, opening narrowly to widely, 20-30 mm x 20-30 mm, pink, cream or greenish with pink to mauve labellum. Sepals and petals linear to narrowly obovate. Dorsal sepal erect or incurved, 20-25 mm x 3-3.5 mm. Lateral sepals divergent, 20-25 mm x 3-3.5 mm. Petals spreading, 19-23 mm x 3-3.5 mm. Labellum 18-24 mm x 10-14 mm, 3-lobed; lateral lobes incurved to enclose column; midlobe with a filigree of darker hairy veins, undulate margins and 3 narrow hairy ridges. Column 10-12 mm long, wider towards the tip. Column foot absent. Capsules pendulous, dehiscent.


Occurs on rainforest margins, open forests and around swamps growing in dark peaty soil, where it forms large colonies. The flowering period is brief and easily missed. The flowers are pleasantly fragrant.

Widespread and common.

Flowering period: November-December.

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