Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids

Pholidota imbricata

Common Rattlesnake Orchid

Pholidota imbricata Hook., Exot. Fl. 2, t. 138 (1825). Type: cult. Kew, Hort. 1824 ex N. Wallich s.n. (holo not seen, probably not preserved; lecto t. 138; & description in Exot. Fl. (1825)).

Cymbidium imbricatum Roxb., Hort. Bengal. 63 (1814), nom. nud.

Ptilocnema bracteatum D.Don, Prodr. fl. Nepal. 33 (1825); Pholidota bracteata (D.Don) Seidenf., Opera Bot. 89: 100 (1986). Types: Nepalia, Hamilton s.n. (not seen); Nepalia, N. Wallich s.n. (not seen).

Pholidota conchoidea Lindl. in Edwards’s, Bot. Reg. 26: Misc.198: 84 (1840); Coelogyne conchoidea (Lindl.) Rchb.f. in Walp., Ann. Bot. Syst. 6: 237 (1861). Type: cult. Knypersley ex Manilla, Oct. 1840, Cuming s.n. (holo K-LINDL; iso W).

Pholidota crotalina Rchb.f. in Otto & Dietr., Allg. Gartenzeitung 24: 218 (1856); Coelogyne crotalina Rchb.f. in Walp., Ann. Bot. Syst. 6: 238 (1861). Type: Bon herrn Consul Schiller aus Java eingefuhrt bluht fte unier herrn Stange’s Beitege feit zivei Monaten in Dvelogonne, cult. Stange ex Schiller s.n. (holo W; iso K-LINDL).

Pholidota loricata Rchb.f., Bonplandia 5: 43 (1857); Coelogyne loricata (Rchb.f.) Rchb.f. in Walp., Ann. Bot. Syst. 6: 238 (1861). Type: Ad arbores horti Bot. Bog. 1206, Zollinger L982 (holo W, iso K-LINDL).

Coelogyne triotos Rchb.f. in Walp., Ann. Bot. Syst. 6: 238 (1861); Pholidota triotos (Rchb.f.) Pfitz. & Kraenzl., Pfl. R. Heft 32: 154 (1907). Type: cult. Stange, Manilla ex Schiller s.n. (holo not seen, probably lost).

Pholidota imbricata var. coriacea Hook.f., Fl. Brit. India 5: 846-7 (1890). Type: Perak, Scortechini, King's Collector 7218(lecto K; isolecto AMES).

Pholidota assamica Sander ex Regel, Gartenflora 39: 607 (1890). Type: (not found).

Pholidota henryi Kraenzl., Viertejahrsschr. Naturf. Ges. Zurich 60: 427-8 (1915); Pholidota imbricata var. henryi (Kraenzl.) Tang & Wang, Acta Phytotax. Sin. 1: 40, 79 (1951). Type: China. Yun-nan. J-Wu, Oct., Henry 13488 (holo K).

Pholidota imbricata var. longifolia Schltr., Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. Beih. 1: 109 (1911). Type: Kaiser-Wilhelms-Land: On trees in the forests near the Kaulo Base, alt. c. 200 m, Apr. 1908, R. Schlechter 17535 (holo B; lecto L; isolecto BO, E, G, K, L).

Pholidota imbricata Hook. var. montana Schltr., Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. Beih. 1: 109 (1911). Type: Kaiser-Wilhelms-Land: On trees in the forests of the Kani Range, alt. c. 1000 m, Jan.1908, R. Schlechter 17367 (holo B; lecto E).

Pholidota imbricata var. platyphylla Schltr., Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. 10: 19 (1911). Type: Celebes: Auf Baumen in den Waldren am Fusse des Gunong Loken und Guong Empung, C. 1000 m. u.d.M., Nov.1909, R. Schlechter 20442 (holo B).

Pholidota beccarii Schltr., Notizbl. Bot. Gart. Berlin-Dahlem. 8: 17-18 (1921). Type: Sumatra: In monte Singalong, Padang, 1700 m.s.m., June-July, 1878, O. Beccari s.n. (holo FI not seen, drawing of the type at K).

Pholidota imbricata var. papuana J.J.Sm., Nova Guinea 14: 349 (1929). Type: cult. Bogor sub 43 & 51 ex Dutch New-Guinea: In the northern part, Mamberamo, W. Feuilletau de Bruyn 8 (lecto BO); Syntypes: cult. Bogor 7, XII B, IX, 62 ex Dutch New-Guinea: In the southern part, Upper Digoel, Heyermans s.n. (BO).

Pholidota spectabilis Kraenzl. ex Guill., Ann. Inst. Bot.-Geol. Colon. Marseille (ser. 6), 5-6: 15 (1948), nom. Type: Nouvelles-Hebrides. Mara, Levat s.n. (not seen).


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

Altitude: 5-900 m.

Also occurs in New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, South-East Asia, India, China, Nepal and Sri Lanka.


Epiphytic or lithophytic herb forming large clumps. Pseudobulbs crowded, erect, conical to cylindrical, 8-12 cm x 3-5 cm, grey-green, smooth or furrowed. Leaf solitary on pseudobulb, erect, apical, petiole to 5 cm long; lamina oblong to lanceolate, 20-40 cm x 6-8 cm, dark green, pleated, leathery, apex obtuse to acute. Inflorescence a terminal raceme, 150-400 mm long, base erect, wiry, distal flower-bearing part pendulous; floral bracts large, distichous, alternate, subtending flowers, concave, pinkish. Flowers 20-60, closely packed in distichous rows, resupinate, porrect, cupped, 6-8 mm x 5-7 mm, white, greenish or cream. Sepals concave. Dorsal sepal, hooded, ovate, 4-5 mm x 3-4 mm, apex apiculate. Lateral sepals divergent, falcate, 6-7 mm x 3 mm, with longitudal ridges. Petals narrowly ovate, 3-4 mm x 1.5 mm, apex acute. Labellum deeply concave, c. 4 mm x 5 mm, 3-lobed; lateral lobes large, erect, blunt; midlobe also 3-lobed. Column 3.5 mm long. Column absent. Capsules pendulous, dehiscent.


Occurs in rainforests, rainforest margins and in humid areas of open forest growing on trees and rocks.

Widespread and common.

Flowering period: March-May.

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