Lesser Swamp-Orchid

Lesser Swamp-Orchid

Phaius australis

Conservation Status
Queensland State: Endangered
Australian Government: Endangered

Species and status overview
One of Australia’s most desirable species of orchid, the Lesser swamp-orchid is highly threatened by the illegal plant trade, as well as clearing.

The Lesser swamp-orchid is most commonly associated with coastal wet heath and sedgeland wetlands. It can also be found in swampy forest and grassland with Broad-leaved tea tree and/or Swamp Mahogany. The orchid thrives on the edges of swamp forest, swampy rainforest or swampy sclerophyll forest and prefers shaded areas.

The Lesser swamp-orchid has been recorded in the Mackay area, including on private property to the west of Mackay.

A terrestrial, ground dwelling orchid the Lesser swamp-orchid is characterised by 4-8 large pleated leaves (around 70 cm long) and one or two flower stalks at the end of which the flowers grow. The flower stalks are also very long, reaching 70-110cm. The Lesser swamp-orchid produces the largest flower of any Australian orchid. Flowers are 10-15cm across and are a unique red-brown colour with yellow veins inside.

Flowering in spring (September to November), this species can reproduce both sexually (through pollination, most likely facilitated by native bees) and asexually via dormant buds along the flower spikes. A single fruit produces thousands of tiny, white seeds.

Swamp-orchids have the largest flowers of any Australian orchid.

Conservation Concerns

  • Illegal collection for horticultural trade or as cut flowers
  • Loss of habitat from development including agriculture and road works.
  • Suppression by weed species such as Lantana camara
  • Frequent fire may threaten this species through suppression of regeneration and limiting it’s ability to set seed.
  • Drainage of swamps and pollution from nutrient run off.
  • Grazing and trampling by stock and feral pigs.

What can I do?

  • Manage and prevent the establishment of weeds such as Lantana camara in areas of known populations
  • Only buy orchids from licensed vendors
  • Fence off swampy areas to exclude stock
  • Control feral pigs on your property
  • Protect areas of habitat from frequent fire, clearing, draining or development

More Information

Photo credit: Steve and Alison Pearson

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