Caleana minor


minor: smaller

Common Name(s)

Flying Duck Orchid

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Critical

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 - Threatened - Nationally Critical
2004 - Non Resident Native - Vagrant


2012 - CD, EF, OL, SO
2009 - SO, CD, EF, OL


Caleana minor R.Br.



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



Paracaleana minor (R.Br.) Blaxell, Sullivania minor (R.Br.) D.L.Jones et M.A.Clem


Indigenous. North Island. formerly known from the vicinity of Kaitaia and around the shore line of Lake Rotorua. Currently known from one site near Whakarewarewa geothermal field, Rotorua.


The only known New Zealand habitat for this orchid is within open mossy sites, bare clay and shallow leaf litter under low, open Kunzea tenuicaulis dominated shrubland near geothermally active ground.


Dark reddish-green plant forming small colonies of 2-10 plants; at flowering up to 200 mm tall, usually with leaf withered. Stems slender, somewhat wiry, terete, dark red-green to wine-red, smooth. Leaf 90 x 3 mm, narrowly linear, deeply channelled, withering early. Inflorescence a open 1-3(-7)-flowered raceme. Flowers yellowish-green to reddish brown (labellum dark red-brown to black). Perianth segments to 10 mm long, linear, channelled, margins inrolled, apices acute. Dorsal sepal up to 8 mm long, linear-spathulate, down curved close to column; lateral sepals obliquely down curved, divergent,fused basally to column foot; petals incurved against column wings. Labellum-claw irritable, 5 mm long, strap-like, broad, smooth, curved with its connective toward column (extremely sensitive to touch); labellum lamina 6 x 4 mm, bifid, prolonged into a triangular pointed process with a flattened duckbill-shaped (hollow beneath) process; this spurred on either side; centre inflated and hollow, upper surface covered with dark black, glossy, somewhat tuberculate calli except near base. Column at right angles to ovary, almost as long as petals, very broadly petalloid winged, with wings extending from the base to apex to form an upwardly directed, patent cup.

Similar Taxa

None - no other indigenous new Zealand orchid has such a distinctive flower, whose irritable glossy black, tuberculed labellum closely resembles the profile of a small black duck in flight.


October - December

Flower Colours



December - February

Propagation Technique

Difficult. Should not be removed from the wild.


Seriously at risk of extinction through human modification of its habitat, which is on private land administered as a tourist attraction. Aside from the potential risk of loss through gross habitat modification, this orchid is threatened by insect and wallaby browsing and the constant risk of plants being removed by plant collectors. The species is currently managed by one individual who carefully guards this species from these threats. Caleana minor is abundant in Australia.

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available


Caleana minor has over the last two decades has been moved to several genera, initially Paracaleana (a genus proposed by Blaxell (1972)) and more recently a reinstated Sullivania (Jones & Clements 2005). Recently both genera have been reduced to synonymy within the original Caleana (Miller & Clements 2014) and this view is followed here

Additional Notes

Although long regarded as a vagrant, it is evident that this species has been present in the Rotorua region for at least 100 years. Its main threats are no longer natural (e.g., reproductive failure due to natural factors, or an ecological constraint) but entirely human induced. For this reason this species has now been listed for New Zealand as 'Threatened / Nationally Critical' (de Lange et al. 2013). 


Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 14 April 2007: Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970).

References and further reading

Blaxell, D.F. 1972: Arthrochilus F.Muell. and related genera (Orchidaceae) in Australia. Contributions from the New South Wales National Herbarium 4: 275-283.

de Lange, P.J.; Rolfe, J.R.; Champion, P.D.; Courtney, S.P.; Heenan, P.B.; Barkla, J.W.; Cameron, E.K.; Norton, D.A.; Hitchmough, R.A. 2013: Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 3. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Jones, D.L.; Clements, M.A. 2005: Miscellaneous Nomenclatural Notes and Changes in Australian, New Guinea and New Zealand Orchidaceae. The Orchadian 15: 33-42.

Miller J.T.; Clements, M.A. 2014: Molecular phylogenetic analyses of Drakaeinae: Diurideae (Orchidaceae) based on DNA sequences of the internal transcribed spacer region. Australian Systematic Botany 27: 3-22.

 Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. II. Government Printer, Wellington.

This page last updated on 3 Dec 2014