Spiranthes novae-zelandiae


Spiranthes: spiral flower
novae-zelandiae: of New Zealand

Common Name(s)

Ladys tresses, Spiranthes orchid

Current Conservation Status

2018 - At Risk - Declining

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

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
2009 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
2004 - Not Threatened


2012 - DP, EF, Sp
2009 - DP, Sp


Spiranthes novae-zelandiae Hook.f.



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Structural Class



New Zealand plants have been known incorrectly as Neottia sinensis Pers., Neottia australis R.Br., Spiranthes australis (R.Br.) Lindl., and Spiranthes sinensis (Pers.) Ames.


Endemic. North, South and Chatham Islands


Coastal to montane in open sites within wetlands of varying tropic levels but most frequently seen in acidic peat bogs. Also record from lake margins, and on the banks of slow flowing streams. Occasional in seepages within tussock grassland, or in damp shingle within river beds.


Terrestrial, glabrescent, somewhat fleshy, perennial herb. Plant at flowering up to 1 m tall. Roots stilt-like, numerous, white, more or less swollen, clustered around stem base. Tuber broadly ovoid to ellipsoid. Stem erect, slender to stout, initially rather brittle, becoming wiry. greatly exceeding leaves. Basal leaves 2-10, obliquely erect, held in a loose basal rosette; lamina 50-200 x 5-15 mm; dark green to yellow green, often tinged reddish, narrow-elliptic, narrow-lanceolate, to lanceolate or almost spathulate tapering into a 20-100 mm long petiole; stem-bracts 2-4(-6). Inflorescence spicate. Spike 20-150 x 5-10 mm; flowers more or less crowded, subsessile, spirally around stem. Ovary glabrescent to finely glandular pubescent. Perianth 4-7 mm long, more or less tubular-cylindric, rose-pink, rose-red, red, pink or completely white. Dorsal sepal projecting forwards, column-embracing, more or less oblong, slightly concave except near the upturned apex; lateral sepals divergent, slightly pouched at base, obtuse to subacute. Petals projected forwards, more or less oblong, more or less fused to dorsal sepal with their apices recurved. Labellum white or whitish pink with a white apex, broad and recurved at apex, more or less obscurely trilobed; mid-lobe upper margin more or less finely laciniate, much crisped, irregularly thickened; base sessile, concave, smooth, except for two prominent ovoid, lateral calli which fit beneath the stigma. Column narrow below stigma; anther obtuse, overtopping stigma; stigma broad and prominent, sometimes lacking rostellum, usually overtopped by delicate, membranous, laciniate column-wings.

Similar Taxa

Easily recognised by the usually perennial habit; preference for growing in muddy or partially flooded sites within wetlands; tufted habit, numerous, fleshy more or less lanceolate leaves which in flowering plants are clustered around a single tall multibracteate flowering stem; and by the numerous, small, tubular dark pink, red or white flowers arranged in a compact left or right sided helix. The labellum tips are white and finely fringed.


January - April

Flower Colours

Red / Pink,White


April - July

Propagation Technique

Should not be removed from the wild. However, rather easily grown in a peat filled pot kept partially submerged in a tub of water, or in a suitably permanently damp, peaty, sunny spot in the garden.


Extremely uncommon and has undoubtedly declined as wetland habitat has been lost and further populations within protected wetlands seem to require regular disturbance to flourish. There are now very few places where this orchid could be regarded as abundant.

Chromosome No.

2n = 30

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available

Cultural Use/Importance

A range of forms occur in New Zealand, one has completely white, larger flowers with widely flaring labella, it may be S. australis (R.Br.) Lindl., the other recorded from Motutangi and the adjacent Kaimaumau Swamp seems to be insect-pollinated. The status of threse forms needs further study.


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 19 Jan 2014