Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids

Spathoglottis paulinae

Small Purple Orchid

Spathoglottis paulinae F.Muell., Fragm. 6: 95 (1867). Type: Rockingham’s Bay, 25 Mar. 1867, J. Dallachy s.n. (holo MEL; iso K).

Spathoglottis soutteriana F.M.Bailey, Proc. Roy. Soc. Queensland 11: 15 (1895). Type: Queensland, Kamerunga, 7 Oct. 1894, E. Cowley 3 (lectotype BRI); Syntype: Queensland, Stoney Creek, Cairns-Herberton railway, 3 Feb. 1893, L.J. Nugent s.n. (BRI not found).

Spathoglottis rivularis Schltr., Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. 1: 397 (1912). Type: Kaiser-Wilhelms-Land: In trickling water between clefts in the rocks on the Waria [River], near Gobi, alt. 300 m, R. Schlechter 19555 (holo B).


Occurs in the Northern Territory in the Habgood River catchment, and in north-eastern Queensland from Cooktown to Ingham.

Altitude: 300-800 m.

Also occurs in New Guinea.


Terrestrial herb forming tall grass-like clumps. Pseudobulbs crowded, erect, ovoid, 3-5 cm x 3-5 cm, shallowly subterranean, fibrous. Leaves 4-7, erect, whorled, petioles 6-12 cm long; lamina lanceolate, 80-180 cm x 3-5 cm, dark green to yellowish, pleated, apex acuminate. Inflorescence an axillary raceme, 30-120 mm long, from base of pseudobulb; pedicels 15-30 mm long. Flowers 6-30, resupinate, porrect to nodding, star-shaped, 20-30 mm x 20-30 mm, mauve to purple, rarely white, sometimes hardly opening. Dorsal sepal erect to incurved, obovate, 12-20 mm x 5-7 mm. Lateral sepals free, divergent, obovate, 12-20 mm x 5-7 mm. Petals widely spreading, broadly ovate, 10-18 mm x 8-9 mm. Labellum 9-12 mm x 9-10 mm, projected forward, base hairy, 3-lobed; lateral lobes narrow, erect; midlobe spathulate, base with 2 yellow, sparsely hairy calli, often fused. Column 6-9 mm long. Column foot short. Capsules porrect to pendulous, hairy, dehiscent.


Occurs in open forests in wet situations, growing among grass. It is frequently found in soaks and moist depressions, often in heavy clay soils. The plants can become deciduous in drought, but quickly regrow their leaves with the first rains. The flowers either open widely, and are insect-pollinated, or open poorly and are self-pollinated. The capsules are hairy and develop quickly.

Locally common.

Flowering period: July-March.

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