Thelymitra pulchella

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Thelymitra pulchella


Thelymitra: woman's hat
pulchella: pretty little thing

Common Name(s)

Striped Sun Orchid, Beautiful Sun Orchid

Current Threat Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Previous Threat Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Thelymitra pulchella Hook.f.



Flora Category

Vascular - Native


Thelymitra concinna Col., Thelymitra fimbriata Col., Thelymitra pachyphylla Cheeseman, Thelymitra caesia Petrie


Endemic. North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands.


Widespread from coastal to montane areas (up to 800 m a.s.l.). Preferring open shrubland, clay plans and gumland vegetation, often in wetlands. Sometimes under mature kauri (Agathis australis (D.Don.) Lindl.) or along ridge lines in mature forest.


Terrestrial, tuberous, glabrous, spring to summer-green perennial herb; found as solitary plants or growing in colonies of 4-many plants arising through vegetative extension. Plants at flower up to 800 mm tall. Stem robust, fleshy, erect, 2.5-4.8 mm diameter, yellow green to dark green (sometimes almost glaucous green). Leaf firmly fleshy to subcoriaceous, rather thick, erect to suberect, 80-240 x 6-20 mm, yellow-green, dark green to reddish green, channelled, deeply keeled and v-shaped in cross section. Bracts, 2-4, foliaceous, closely sheathing, broadly to narrowly lanceolate, of similar colour to stems and leaves. Inflorescence a (1-)6-14-flowered raceme. Flower 10-18 mm diameter, segments usually blue or pink, rarely white, petals usually prominently striped with dark blue, sepals less markedly so; sometimes segments pink or blue without stripes. Sepals and petals similar, broadly ovate, lateral sepals slight narrower than the rest. Labellum slightly obovate. Column erect 6-8 mm tall, dark blue, pink, mauve, or white; post-anther lobe variable, mostly shorter than or equal to anther height, rarely taller; margins variable, usually thickened, sometimes slightly to prominently incurved, or irregularly denticulate and often tuberculate; usually dark orange, red-brown or red in the upper portion with the distal margins usually yellow; column-arms usually higher than anther, flat, red-brown to red, variably ornamented within a single raceme or population; most commonly with the margins thinly membranous, basally coloured red, toothed or lobed (anteriorly, posteriorly or both), the upper teeth grading into branched fimbriae, these extending to the top of the arm, or plain without ornamentation, or plain grading into teeth, or plain grading into fimbriae; teeth and fimbriae red, orange, yellow or in gradations between these.

Similar Taxa

The prominently keeled, erect to suberect, rather thick and fleshy leaves are distinctive, while the usually striped flowers and rather variable, though usually reddish column arms of varying ornamentation are diagnostic of this species. It is most likely to be confused with T. cyanea (Lindl.) Benth. which differs by the absence of a post-anther lobe, and by its consistently ribbon-like, more or less spirally twisted, yellow column arms. It could also be confused with T. xdentata L.B.Moore a sterile hybrid which differs by the less brightly-coloured, inconspicuous column-arm teeth that extend down the from margin of the column-arm wing; and yellow cilia held in globose masses.


October - January

Main Flower Colour


Other Flower Colour

Red / Pink


December - April

Propagation Technique

Very easily grown in a sunny, well drained site. Often naturalises in gardens within urban areas abutting indigenous vegetation in northern New Zealand. Although easily cultivated, like all orchids it should not be removed from the wild.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 66

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available.

Notes on taxonomy

An extremely variable plant that evolved through hybridisation with Thelymitra cyanea and T. longifolia J.R.Forst. et G.Forst. Both parents account for the wide variation in flower colour, column and column-arm shape, colour and ornamentation.


References and further reading

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

This page last updated on 19 Jan 2014

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