Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids

Cymbidium suave

Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid

Cymbidium suave R.Br., Prod. 331 (1810). Type: (J.) v.v. [Port Jackson; Hunter River, R. Brown s.n.] (lectotype BM), fide Clements (1989).

Cymbidium gomphocarpum Fitzg., J. Bot. 21: 203 (1883). Type: Australia, R.D. Fitzgerald s.n. (holo BM).


Occurs from Cooktown, in far north-eastern Queensland, to Bega on the south coast of New South Wales.

Altitude: 1-1200 m.


Epiphytic herb forming willowy or grassy clumps. Stems narrow, erect, without pseudobulbs, 30-50 cm x 1.5-2 cm, persistent for several years, bases covered with imbricate fibrous leaf bases. Leaves 4-8, erect to pendulous, scattered along pseudobulb, distichous, alternate, sessile, base sheating stem; lamina linear to lorate, 30-45 cm x 1.5-2 cm, dark green, thin-textured, flat, apex acute. Inflorescence an axillary raceme, arching to pendulous, 100-300 mm long. Flowers 5-50, crowded, resupinate, porrect, 23-35 mm x 20-30 mm, light green to dark green or brownish green, sometimes blotched. Sepals and petals usually spreading. Dorsal sepal narrowly obovate, 12-15 mm x 5-6 mm, apex apiculate. Lateral sepals narrowly obovate, 12-15 mm x 5-6 mm, apex apiculate. Petals shorter than sepals, oblong to obovate, 8-11 mm x 5-6 mm, apex apiculate. Labellum 8-11 mm x 7-8 mm, obscurely 3-lobed; lateral lobes shallow; midlobe as broad as basal part in northern populations, narrower in southern populations, without any ridges. Column slightly incurved, 6-9 mm long. Column foot absent. Capsules pendulous, dehiscent.


Occurs in moist forests and woodlands, growing in large old trees with decaying heartwood, where the grassy clumps protrude from hollows and cracks within tree trunks. Seedlings frequently germinate on decaying logs and plants can survive in decaying stumps in cleared paddocks. The orchid has an extensive rhizome and root system which can penetrate deep into the decaying heartwood of the host tree, and new tufts can sometimes be seen emerging from hollows in trunk and branches. Large plants flower heavily, bearing a profusion of flowers. In Currumbin Valley, Queensland, a large plant was observed bearing more than 10 000 flowers. The flowers have a strong sweet spicy fragrance.

Widespread and common.

Flowering period: August-January.

More about Cymbidium