Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids

Empusa habenarina

Common Hobgoblin Orchid

Empusa habenarina (F.Muell.) M.A.Clem. & D.L.Jones, Orchadian 14(8): Suppl. xiv (2004).

Sturmia habenarina F.Muell., Fragm. 4: 131 (1864); Leptorchis habenarina (F.Muell.) Kuntze, Revis. gen. pl. 2: 671 (1891); Liparis habenarina (F.Muell.) Benth., Fl. Austral. 6: 273 (1873). Type: In pratis humidis ad sinum Rockingham’s Bay, J. Dallachy s.n. (holo K).


Occurs in the Northern Territory on Melville Island and in the northerly parts of the mainland. In Queensland it occurs on some Torres Strait islands, and from Cape York to Coffs Harbour in New South Wales.

Altitude: 0-1200 m.

Also occurs in Indonesia and New Guinea.


Terrestrial herb forming small clumps. Pseudobulbs usually 2, erect, subterranean, ovoid, 2-3 cm x 2-2.5 cm, fleshy. Leaves 2-3, apical, erect to prostrate, bases sheathing stem; lamina oblong, ovate or obovate, 10-25 cm x 2.5-4 cm, dark green to yellowish green, thin-textured, with 5 veins prominent. Inflorescence a terminal raceme, stiffly erect, 200-600 mm tall, 4-sided with wings; pedicels 5-10 mm long, including ovary. Flowers 8-22, resupinate, erect to porrect, star-shaped, 10-12 mm x 5-6 mm, greenish-yellow, pinkish, brownish or reddish. Sepals and petals narrow, decurved or deflexed. Dorsal sepal linear to lorate, 8-10 mm x 2 mm, margins revolute. Lateral sepals free, inner margins touching but not fused, oblong to  cuneate, 6-8 mm x 3 mm, closely subtending labellum. Petals linear, falcate, 8-10 mm x 1 mm. Labellum unlobed, curved, oblong to obovate, 4-5 mm x 3-4 mm, with 2 rounded basal ridges and greenish central plate, margins undulate, apex nearly square, emarginate or mucronate. Column prominent above sepals and petals, 4-5 mm long, curved at right-angles in middle. Column foot absent. Capsules erect, dehiscent.


Occurs in open forests growing in grassy areas in well-drained soil, and in monsoonal thickets and rainforest margins. It is also found in low-lying areas which are wet for part of the year. Plants grow rapidly in the wet season, producing leaves and flowering over summer and autumn, and dying back completely in winter.

Widespread and common.

Flowering period: January-April.

Name Changes

Until recently known as Liparis habenarina.

More about Empusa