Pterostylis tristis


Pterostylis: winged column

Common Name(s)

None Known

Current Conservation Status

2012 - 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

2009 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Sparse


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


Pterostylis tristis Colenso



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



Hymenochilus tristis (Colenso) D.L.Jones, M.A.Clem. et Molloy


Endemic. North, South and Stewart Islands. In the North Island scarce being known from a few old gatherings made between the Rangipo Desert and Hawkes Bay. South Island east of the main ranges from North Canterbury south. Stewart Island, known from one old record.


Lowland to subalpine (confined to upper montane to subalpine in the North Island). A species of open ground, usually in short tussock grassland within intermontane basins, along river flats and terraces, and also in open ground within grey scrub. It may also grow within mainly exotic pastures and along roadside verges, in loose gravel or shingle, or within sparsely vegetated gaps amongst boulders.


Diminutive orchid mainly of short tussock grassland. Plants rather stout, 20-100 mm tall when flowering. Stem more or less hidden by conspicuous leafy bracts. Rosette leaves fleshy to fleshy-coriaceous, numerous, these 5-15 x 3-10 mm; brown-green, dark to yellow-green, somewhat glaucous, rhombic, more or less alveolate, lamina tapering into a broadly winged petiole; cauline leaves similar but smaller and sheathing. Inflorescence a raceme of 1-6(-8) flowers, each partially enclosed within a sheathing floral bract; perianth green, greenish to brownish-green with pale stripes. Dorsal sepal 5-10 mm, broad, apiculate; lateral sepals slightly shorter, almost completely fused into a flat, apically bidentate lamina, this strongly deflexed in fully opened flowers. Petals shorter than dorsal sepal, the anterior minutely (but distinctly) denticulate. Labellum, short and squat, broadly obtuse, extended backwards into a smoothly rounded appendage with a low, somewhat thickened median ridge. Column short and broad; wings broader than long, ciliate over most of the free margins; stigma broadly ovate.

Similar Taxa

Could only be confused with the South Island endemic Pterostylis tanypoda from which it differs in its darker often brownish-green rather than glaucous foliage and usually brownish-green rather than uniformly green flowers whose labellum base possesses a backward (reflexed) or decurved appendage, rather than a prominent forward-pointing knob.


September - January

Flower Colours



October - April

Propagation Technique

Difficult - should not be removed from the wild


An easily overlooked orchid of mainly short tussock grasslands. Herbarium data suggests that it is naturally uncommon and biologically sparse. However, it is very easily overlooked. Plants have been found growing in pastures dominated by exotic grasses and also along roadside verges. In the North Island it needs to be surveyed for, as it the areas in which it was recorded retain plenty of suitable habitat and the species is probably still there. Over all the exact conservation status of this species requires a more critical field survey.

Chromosome No.

2n = 52

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

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

Where To Buy

Not commercially available

Taxonomic notes

Jane et al. (2010) following a thorough rDNA (ITS) based analysis of the segregate genera erected for Pterostylis R.Br. by Szlachekto (2001) and Jones et al. (2002) found no support to continue their recognition. This view, in the process of being adopted by the Australian Plants Names Index, is followed here.



Fact Sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange (14 April 2007). Description based on Moore & Edgar (1970) (as Pterostylis mutica) and Colenso (1886) (as P. tristis).

References and further reading

Colenso, W. 1886: A Description of some newly-discovered and rare Indigenous Plants: being a further Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 18: 256-287.

Janes, J.K.; Dorothy A. S.; Vaillancourt, R.E.; Duretto, M.F. 2010: A new classification for subtribe Pterostylidinae (Orchidaceae), reaffirming Pterostylis in the broad senseAustralian Systematic Botany 23: 260–269

Jones, D.L.; Molloy, B. P. J.; Clements, M. A. 1997: Six new species of Pterostylis R.Br. (Orchidaceae) from New Zealand. The Orchadian 12(6): 266-281.

Jones, D.L.; Clements, M.A.; Molloy, B.P.J 2002: A Synopsis of the Subtribe Pterostylidinae. Australian Orchid Research 4: 129-146.

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I. 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 11: 285-309

Szlachekto, D.L. 2001: Genera et Species Orchidalium 1. Polish Botanical Journal 46: 11-26.

This page last updated on 24 Jun 2016