Cymbidium canaliculatum

black orchid


Cymbidium canaliculatum

R.Br. 1810

pronounced: kim-BID-ee-um kan-al-ick-you-LAH-tim

(Orchidaceae — the orchid family)


common names: black orchid, banana orchid, tiger orchid

native 4Cymbidium is derived from the Greek κυμβη (kymbé), a type of boat, referring to the hollow recess in the lip of the flower; canaliculatum is from the Latin canaliculus, channelled, like a pipe.

This orchid has a scattered distribution in tropical and subtropical Australia, in the northern parts of West Australia and the Northern Territory, in Queensland (except for the dry south-west), and in northern NSW. In NSW it occurs chiefly in inland districts to New Angledool and Walgett on the north-western plains and north of the Hunter River, through the north-western slopes, the northern tablelands and the north coast. It is found in forests and woodland, where is grows as an epiphyte in the hollows, fissures, trunks and forks of trees in dry sclerophyll forest. It usually occurs singly or as a single clump The plants have an extensive root and rhizome system, that extends deep into decaying wood in the host tree, and may reappear from other hollows metres away from the original clump. The plant typically grows between 2 and 6 metres above the ground.

The pseudobulbs are erect, ovoid, about 10 cm long and 3 or 4 cm wide, greenish or grey-green in colour, the bases having stiff papery bracts, and with 2 - 6 leaves growing from each pseudobulb.

The long narrow leaves are channelled, erect, and grow to about 60 cm long. They are erect, distichous, alternate, sessile, pale green to grey-green in colour, thick, rigid, fleshy, with an acute apex.

Flowers are produced in racemes, erect or pendulous, that grow from the base of the pseudobulb to about 40 cm long. There can be anything up to about 60 flowers in each raceme. The individual flowers are resupinate, porrect, star-shaped, and measure about 4 cm in diameter. The fragrant flower is very variable in colour (pale green, brown, purple, dull red, dark reddish black), blotched or striped or with spots that are reddish brown to almost black. The labellum, 15  - 20 mm by 8  -  10 mm, usually white with red markings, 3-lobed. The lateral lobes are erect and obtuse; the middle lobe is decurved, the upper surface warty or hairy, with 2 hairy ridges. The flowering period is September to October.

The fruit is a dehiscent pendant capsule containing numerous tiny seeds.
In NSW the orchid is listed as an engangered population.


Photographed on Magnetic Island 2017
Page last updated 7th December 2018