Thelymitra carnea


Thelymitra: woman's hat
carnea: From the Latin carnus 'flesh', meaning flesh-coloured

Common Name(s)

pink sun orchid, early sun 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


Thelymitra carnea Cheeseman



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



Thelymitra carnea var. imberbis (Hook.f.) Rupp et Hatch, Thelymitra imberbis Hook.f.


Indigenous. North and South Islands. Mainly in the northern North Island south to about Taupo. Local around the southern North Island. Apparnetly absent in between. In the South Island confined to the northern and mainly westen third.


Coastal to montane (up to 700 m a.s.l.). Mostly at low altitudes and favouring open clay pans, consolidated sand hollows, and geothermal ground. Sometimes on the margins of peat bogs. Most often in gumland scrub or other semi-permanent shrubland habitats where it is especially abundant after fire.


Terrestrial, tuberous, glabrous, late winter to early summer-green perennial herb, either solitary or in well-spaced groups. Plants mostly reddish-green, at flower 100-300 mm tall. Leaf solitary, wiry, distinctly flexuose, fleshy to subcoriaceous, 80.0-160.0 x 2.5-3.0 mm, dark green to reddish green, terete or semi-terete and shallowly channelled, apex often twisted, subacute, often frayed. Inflorescence a 1-8-flowered raceme. Flowers widely spaced, 8-14 mm diameter, segments to 8 x 4 mm, mostly pink, rarely cream or pale lemon yellow with the sepals darker coloured than the petals, without spots or stripes, scarcely opening or not, if opening only slightly spreading. Sepals and petals alike, broadly oblong. Labellum very slightly smaller. Column to 4 mm long, cream to pale pink or dark pink; column arms obliquely erect, more or less ovate, thick, fleshy, margins crenate or toothed, rarely with a few small spheroidal glands, otherwise without further ornamentation or cilia; post anther lobe almost as high as anther, erect, margins fleshy, unevenly thickened to very slightly cucullate, weakly notched, bright yellow. Anther not prominent.

Similar Taxa

Not likely to be confused with anyother indigenous species. This species is readily identified by the reddish colour of the stem and leaf, and the slender, zig-zagged (flexuose) terete to semi-terete leaf (usually with a twisted and distinctly frayed apex). The widely spaced mostly pink flowers which scarcely open, are also distinctive. While the small pink grading to yellow, scarcely hooded and notched column, and flattened, toothed column arms lacking cilia are also unusual in New Zealand Thelymitra.


August - October

Flower Colours

Cream,Red / Pink


September - January

Propagation Technique

Difficult - should not not be removed from the wild.


Not Threatened. However, it has declined from large parts of its range through habitat loss to taller forest or through urban development. Still abundant in the far north but if trends continue it may qualify in the not too distant future for some level of threat.

Chromosome No.

2n = 62

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available

Notes on taxonomy

Thelymitra carnea is based on an Australian type. Australian plants tend to be slightly larger than New Zealand forms and often have cream or reddish coloured flowers. Some people regard the New Zealand plant as endemic and use the name T. imberbis Hook.f. for it.


Fact Sheet prepared by Peter J. de Lange (14 April 2007). Description adapted from Moore 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 Oct 2016