Thelymitra tholiformis


Thelymitra: woman's hat

Common Name(s)

Domed Sun Orchid

Current Conservation Status

2018 - 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

2012 - Not Threatened
2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Sparse


2009 - EF


Thelymitra tholiformis Molloy et Hatch



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Structural Class





Endemic. North Island only from Te Paki south to the northern Waikato.


A species favouring open clay pans, gumland scrub, or sparsely vegetated slopes in site where there once was, or still is kauri (Agathis australis (D.Don) Lindl.) forest. It may also colonise grassy verges along roadsides traversing kauri forest remnants and gumland scrub. This species responds well to periodic burning provided of course the former habitat had few or no fire-adapted weed species.


Stout plants either solitary or forming colonies, up to 0.6 m tall at flowering. Leaf up to 360 x 15 mm,green, often reddish-green near margins and base, linear-lanceolate, sub-erect, shallowly concave with exterior ridges on mature plants. Basal sheath up to 30 mm long, pale, truncate, mucronate; stem bracts 2, 20-90 x 3-6 mm, lanceolate, sheathing in basal half to two thirds. Floral bracts 10-20 x 3-6 mm, lanceolate. Inflorescence 1-15-flowered, flowers 10-15 mm diameter, pale to strong mauve, on short pedicels. Perianth cupped, parts ovate, apiculate, up to 12 x 5 mm; sepals narrower than petals; petals minutely papillate externally. Column 5 mm tall, erect, concave in side view, pale purple with yellow striae and a narrow purple band near top. Post anther lobe as high as or exceeding anther, tholiform (dome-shaped) not hooded (cucullate), bright yellow, margin irregularly denticulate. Column arms more or less terete, horizontal or upturned, with short, dense, globose tufts of white cilia. Anther erect, apex pointed, sometimes curving forward. Stigma short, broad, more or less concave, bilobed; rostellum orbicular, very prominent. Capsule 10-15 x 5-7 mm, elliptic, green.

Similar Taxa

Most likely to be confused with Thelymitra aemula Cheeseman and T. ixioides Sw., species with which it often grows. From T. ixioides, T. tholiformis can be immediately distinguished by its unspotted darker mauve flowers, and smooth, green leaves with reddish margins and ridges rather than reddish-green to glaucous silvery reddish-green leaves whose surfaces are finely rough to the touch. From T. aemula, T. tholiformis may be distinguished by its smaller overall size (0.4-0.6 cf 0.7-0.9 m), narrow-linear rather than linear leaves that are coloured green with reddish margins and ridges, rather than dark green with reddish bases. The column of T. aemula is coloured white to mauve, flushed darker mauve near the apex, whereas in T. tholiformis the column is coloured pale purple with yellow striae and a purple band near the apex. In T. aemula the column has a prominent low, forward projecting fleshy yellow side lobe which is absent in T. tholiformis. Thelymitra tholiformis has 2n = 66 chromosomes, while T. aemula has 2n = 40 and T. ixioides 2n = 28.


(October-) November (-December)

Flower Colours

Violet / Purple,White


October - February

Propagation Technique

Difficult. Should not be removed from the wild


Habitat loss and plant collectors. This species is usually associated with kauri forest remnants and gumland. In gumland it is very vulnerable to habitat modification and from competition by weed species. Fires seem to temporarily benefit this orchid which increases in abundance soon after a fire. Some populations near to Auckland have been seriously damaged by plant collectors. Despite these losses,over all the species appears to be much common than was once thought, having an apparently naturally sparse distribution.

Chromosome No.

2n = 65, c.66

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available


Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 14 April 2007. Description subsequently published in Rolfe & de Lange (2010).

References and further reading

Rolfe, J.R.; de Lange, P.J. 2010: Illustrated guide to New Zealand sun orchids, Thelymitra (Orchidaceae). Jeremy Rolfe, Wellington.

This page last updated on 13 May 2014