Thelymitra malvina


Thelymitra: woman's hat

Common Name(s)

Mauve Sun Orchid

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Non Resident Native - Coloniser

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 - Non Resident Native - Coloniser
2004 - Non Resident Native - Coloniser


2012 - EF, SO
2009 - SO


Thelymitra malvina M.A.Clem., D.L.Jones et Molloy



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Structural Class





Indigenous. North Island where known locally from the North Cape area, Ahipara Gumfields, Kaimaumau and Lake Ohia wetlands near Kaitaia and from Ngawha Springs near Kaikohe. Common in eastern Australia in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.


Open ground within peat bogs and wetlands, nearly always found in association with rotting kauri (Agathis australis (D.Don) Lindl.) logs.


Glabrous, terrestrial orchid. Tubers ovoid 10-30 x 5-12 mm, fleshy, pinkish-grey. Leaf linear to linear-lanceolate, 100-350 x 5-20 mm, light to dark green with a purple base, erect, canaliculate, fleshy, abaxial surface ribbed, sheathing at base, apex acute. Inflorescence 0.25-0.75(-0.9) m tall, 1.5-5.0 mm diameter, stout, fleshy, straight, green to purple-green. Sterile bracts (2-)3, linear to linear-lanceolate, 20-100 x 4-11 mm, closely sheathing, acute to acuminate, green or purple-green, upper bract usually free with base usually only half encircling the scape. Fertile bracts 8-30 x 3-6 mm, green or purple-green, ovate-acuminate to obovate-acuminate, sheathing the pedicels. Pedicels 5-15 mm long, slender. Ovary cylindrical to narrow-obovoid, 5-12 x 2-4 mm. Flowers 3-25, 18-32 mm diameter, slate blue to mauve inside, sepals greenish outside, opening readily in warm weather. Perianth segments 8-16 x 3-7 mm, concave, acute, shortly apiculate; dorsal sepal elliptic to lanceolate; lateral sepals elliptic to lanceolate, asymmetric; petals ovate to lanceolate; labellum elliptic to linear-lanceolate, often narrower than other segments. Column erect, 6-7.5 x 2.5-3.7 mm, mauve; post-anther lobe cucullate, 2-4 x 1.5-2.5 mm, tubular, inflated, compressed dorsally, curved gently, dark reddish brown, apex shallowly bilobed, lobes toothed, orifice small, yellow; post-anther lobe extension 0.6-0.2 mm; auxiliary lobes absent; lateral lobes converging 1-1.5 mm long, digitiform, obliquely erect, each with a more or less terminal, dense, broom of mauve or pink cilia 1-1.5 mm long. Anther inserted near middle of column, ovoid, 2.5-3.5 x 1.2-2.2 mm, the connective prolonged into a 0.5-1.0 mm long beak. Stigma at base of column, 1.8-2.6 x 1.5-2.5 mm, ovate-quadrate. Capsules 12-20 x 4-6 mm, obovoid, erect, ribbed.

Similar Taxa

Thelymitra malvina has no close relatives in New Zealand. The tall stout but slender scape and mauve to slate blue flowers with mauve to pink mop-like cilia tufts on the lateral lobes are very distinctive. In New Zealand Thelymitra malvina usually has > 5 flowers per scape and these characteristically all open at the same time. Its nearest relative is the Australian endemic T. atronitida Jeanes from which it differs by the usually three rather than two sterile bracts, larger mostly insect-pollinated rather than autogamous flowers, dark reddish brown rather than glossy black post anther lobes, and mauve or pink rather than white lateral lobe cilia.


(September-) October (-November)

Flower Colours

Blue,Violet / Purple


October - January

Propagation Technique

Not in cultivation. A strongly mycorrhizal species which should not be removed from the wild


Plant collectors are a constant problem because it is a conspicuous orchid with very attractive flowers. It is threatened at many sites by invasive weeds, changes to the local water table, and removal of swamp kauri logs for furniture making. However, it is also reasonably secure at several sites and indications are that it actively spreading in suitable habitats throughout Northland

Chromosome No.

2n = 26

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). See also Jeanes (2004).

References and further reading

Jeanes, J. 2004: A revision of the Thelymitra pauciflora R.Br. (Orchidaceae) complex in Australia. Muelleria 19: 19-79.

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