Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids

Serpenticaulis johnsonii

Common Snake Orchid

Serpenticaulis johnsonii (T.E.Hunt) M.A.Clem. & D.L.Jones, Orchadian 13(11): 500 (2002).

Bulbophyllum johnsonii T.E.Hunt, Proc. Roy. Soc. Queensland 60: 60, t. 5, f. 1 (1949). Type: cult. Ipswich, T.E. Hunt 179 ex Hambledon [Bellenden Ker], N. Queensland, Oct. 1947, A.E. Johnson s.n. (lectotype BRI), fide Clements (1989).


Occurs in north-eastern Queensland from Big Tableland to Paluma.

Altitude: 600-1400 m.


Epiphytic or lithophytic herb forming sparse clumps. Rhizomes thin, creeping, appressed to host, branched. Pseudobulbs widely spaced, semi-erect, ovoid to conical, 1.4-1.8 cm x 1-1.5 cm, flattened, grooved, dark green, reddish or purple. Leaves solitary on pseudobulb, apical, erect, ovate, 4-7 cm x 1.5-2 cm, tough, dark green, apex obtuse to emarginate. Inflorescence axillary, single-flowered, 20-30 mm long, from rhizome nodes; pedicel curved forward near apex, filiform. Flower solitary, resupinate, porrect to nodding, 7-10 mm x 15-20 mm, red, brown, green or yellowish with red lines. Petals much smaller than sepals. Dorsal sepal hooded, porrect, 6-8 mm x 3-4 mm. Lateral sepals widely spreading, horizontal, straight to slightly falcate, 8-10 mm x 3-4 mm, bases fused to column foot. Petals reduced, 2-2.5 mm x 1-1.5 mm, with dark apical blotch. Labellum unlobed, 6-8 mm x 1.5 mm, fleshy, base dark red, apex yellow. Column porrect, 1.2-1.5 mm long. Column foot 1 mm long, at right-angles to column with auricle on either side of apex. Capsules porrect, dehiscent.


Occurs in rainforests growing on trees, and in open forests at high altitudes, where it is found on shrubs, trees and boulders. The stems and pseudobulbs of plants growing in bright sunlight tend take on deep reddish brown hues. The flowers last 1-2 days.

Locally common.

Flowering period: Sporadic throughout the year.

Name Changes

Until recently known as Bulbophyllum johnsonii.

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