Prasophyllum colensoi


Prasophyllum: From the Greek 'prasos' leek and phyllos 'leaf'
colensoi: Named after William Colenso (7 November 1811 - 10 February 1899) who was a Cornish Christian missionary to New Zealand, and also a printer, botanist, explorer and politician.

Common Name(s)

Leek orchid

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Prasophyllum colensoi Hook.f.



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class



Prasophyllum pauciflorum Col.


Endemic. North, South, Stewart, Chatham, Antipodes and Auckland Islands


Coastal to alpine in wetlands, gumland and subalpine scrub, successional forest, tussock grassland, herb and fellfield


Terrestrial, tuberous, fleshy, glabrous, summer-green, perennial herb up to 300 mm tall when flowering. Tuber shortly ovoid, adjacent to or occasionally up to 10 mm away from previous seasons tuber. Stem erect, more or less smooth, terete, dark green basally tinged with red. Leaf shorter than or overtopping raceme; 100-300 mm long, dark green or reddish green, if dark green with base tinged red, terete, hollow, linear-lanceolate, apex acute. Inflorescence racemose. Raceme 5-20-flowered, flowers evenly spaced, or clumped together and more or less overlapping. Perianth green, yellowish-green, pale yellow, reddish-green to dark red or maroon, colours sometimes intermixed on the same plant. Dorsal sepal 5 mm long, ovate, concave, sometimes recurved; lateral sepals slightly longer, narrower, weakly fused in bud and usually remaining so at least near base, channelled, apex minutely cucullate, shortly apiculate, appearing bidentate. Petals a little shorter, wider, more delicate. Labellum of similar length, narrowed at base and almost sessile, occasionally shortly clawed, ovate, recurved but not abruptly so; margin entire, smooth to undulate; callus extending as an irregularly thickened median band almost to the narrowly subacute apex. Lateral processes of column bilobed, anterior lobe membranous and slightly shorter than anther; posterior lobe much smaller and more or less callus-like. Anther sessile, just overtopped by rostellum. Stigma barely its own height above column-base.

Similar Taxa

Could be confused with Prasophyllum hectorii (Buchanan) Molloy, D.L.Jones et M.A.Clem., which is a species of acidic wetlands where it usually grows partially submerged in water. Prasophyllum colensoi differs by its usually smaller size (up to 300 mm c.f up to 1 m tall in P. hectorii) and fewer, scarcely scented flowers (up to 20 cf. up to 80 in P. hectorii). The callus of the labellum in P. colensoi extends almost to the narrow apex; that of P. hectorii is more or less confined to the proximal portion, with the labellum apex wide, pale and mostly undulose.


October - March

Flower Colours



January - June

Propagation Technique

Easily grown in a sunny, free draining soil. Excellent in pots. Should not be removed from the wild.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 42

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available.


Recent molecular and morphological studies, as yet unpublished suggest that the two New Zealand Prasophyllum will need placing in another, as yet undescribed new genus (Peter Weston pers. comm. November 2014)

Prasophyllum colensoi is an aggregate species and at least two further, possibly unnamed entities warranting specific recognition could be separated from it. Forms found in Northland and on Great Barrier Island are especially distinctive. 


Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 14 April 2007. Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970).

References and further reading

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. II. Government Printer, Wellington.

This page last updated on 9 Dec 2014