Calochilus robertsonii


Calochilus: From Greek kalos (beautiful) and cheilos (lip), referring to the attractive labellum

Common Name(s)

Red Bearded orchid

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon

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 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Sparse


2012 - EF, SO, Sp
2009 - SO, EF


Calochilus robertsonii Benth.



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





Indigenous. North and South Islands. In the North known from the Hauraki Plains south to the Taupo Volcanic Zone (where it is particularly common around parts of the Kaingaroa Plain and Rotorua). In the South known from one 1965 gathering from Kaiteriteri, western Tasman Bay (Nelson). Also in Australia where it is common.


A species of usually open, disturbed habitats. Often found in acidic peat bogs, nutrient poor pumice ground and in open sites within frost flats. Also commonly found under Eucalyptus plantations and in and around active geothermal areas. One very large population grow sin shortly mown turf within a race course at Rotorua.


Slender to rather stoutly robust orchid 100-800 mm tall. Stem fleshy, erect, dark green to blue-green (glaucous). Leaf fleshy, lanceolate, green to blue-green, channelled, sheathing at base apex acute. Cauline bracts similar but much shorter. Inflorescence a raceme of (1-)2(-4) flowers. Floral bracts narrow, acute, overtopping ovary. Perianth mostly green, except for bright red lamina, and red cilia of labellum (cilia copious). Dorsal sepal 10-15 mm long, broad-elliptic, acute, somewhat folded about column; lateral sepals similar though smaller. Petals shorter, obliquely deltoid, apex subacute, directed toward dorsal sepal, green striped with red. Labellum twice length of sepals, green suffused with red, with a red apex, not much larger than sepals and petals; ligulate apex, short, twisted usually hidden within cilia; disc broad with long, dense processes; base covered with numerous short, rounded red calli. Column wings each with one, prominent dark basal gland or callus.

Similar Taxa

Of the three species of Calochilus R.Br. known from New Zealand, C. robertsonii is easily distinguished by the column-wings which are each surmounted by a single rounded (bead-like) gland near the base, and also by the rather short, twisted, glabrous labellum apex. The flowers are distinctly striped with red and cilia on the labellum are red, copious and frequently hide the labellum apex.


(September-) October-December

Flower Colours

Green,Red / Pink


October - February

Propagation Technique

Impossible to cultivate - should not be removed from the wild


Although quite widespread this species is usually not abundant at any particular place, and because it has attractive flowers it is often picked and/or dug up by people. Because it is strongly mycorrhizal it is virtually impossible to culivate. Indiscriminate plant collection has been a factor in its loss from some parts of the country. However, it would also appear to be spreading well within plantation forestry and it has turned up in some recently logged pine plantations. Over all this species is probably the least threatened of the three Calochilus known from New Zealand.

Chromosome No.

2n = 24

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Minute seeds are wind dispersed (Thorsen et al., 2009).




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.

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 2009 Vol. 11 No. 4 pp. 285-309

This page last updated on 25 May 2014