Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids

Calanthe australasica

Common Christmas Orchid

Calanthe australasica D.L.Jones & M.A.Clem., Austral. Orchid. Res. 5: 8 (21 Dec. 2006). Type: Australia. Queensland. Kroombit Tops, 2 Jan. 1997, R. Crane 1773 (holo CANB).

Calanthe veratrifolia var. australis Lindl. & Paxton in Paxtonís, Fl. Gard. 2: 132 (1851-53). Type: cult. Kew ex New Holland, Illawarra, Aug. 1822, A. Cunningham s.n. (holo K-LINDL).

Calanthe veratrifolia (Willd.) R.Br. var. kennyi F.M.Bailey, Queensland Agric. J. 28: 276 (1912). Type: Lake Eacham, F. Hamilton-Kenny s.n. (holo BRI).


Widely distributed along the east coast of Ausralia, occurring from Iron Range in far north-eastern Queensland to Termeil on the south coast of New South Wales.

Altitude: 0-1200 m.

Also occurs on Lord Howe Island and may be present in New Guinea.


Terrestrial herb with clumping habit. Pseudobulbs crowded, erect, ovoid, 4-8 cm x 2-4 cm, fleshy. Leaves 4-9 per pseudobulb, erect, whorled, apical, petioles 8-20 cm long, bases sheathing stem, fleshy, channelled; lamina broadly elliptic to obovate, 40-90 cm x 10-18 cm, dark green, plicate, margins entire to undulate, apex acute to acuminate. Inflorescence an axillary raceme, 500-1500 mm tall, from lower axils, green, fleshy; pedicels long. Flowers numerous, crowded toward inflorescence apex, resupinate, porrect to nodding, 25-35 mm wide, white, readily bruising purplish. Sepals and petals spreading widely, sepals broader than petals. Dorsal sepal free, erect, ovate to elliptic, 10-12 mm x 6-7 mm, apex acuminate. Lateral sepals free, broadly ovate to obovate, 11-13 mm x 6-7 mm, apex acuminate to aristate. Petals obliquely erect, obovate, 8-10 mm x 3-4 mm, apex acute. Labellum prominent, porrect to decurved, longer than dorsal sepal, deeply 3-lobed; lateral lobes curved, widely divergent, linear-oblong, 8 mm long; midlobe deeply emarginate, lobes widely divergent, falcate, oblong, c. 12 mm long, apex obliquely truncate. Callus yellow. Spur narrow, cylindrical, curved, 20 mm long. Column 5-7 mm long, porrect from end of ovary. Column foot absent. Capsules pendulous, obovoid, 40 mm long, green, shiny, dehiscent.


Occurs in rainforests, and in more open habitats near streams and on sheltered slopes. It grows in leaf litter and humus-rich soils in shady locations in forest, and is often seen perched on litter-covered boulders, rotting logs and stumps.

Widespread and common.

Flowering period: October-February.

Name Changes

Until recently this species was confused with Calanthe triplicata, which is not Australian.

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