Nervilia holochila

ribbed shield orchid


Nervilia holochila

(F.Muell.) Schltr. 1907

pronounced: ner-VY-lee-uh hoe-low-KILL-uh

(Orchidaceae — the orchid family)

common name: ribbed shield orchid

native 4Nervilia is from the Latin nervus (a vein) referring to the distinctly fine veins in the leaves; holochila is Greek, 'ολος (holos), whole, complete, and χιλος (chilos), fodder, forage for cattle.

This terrestrial orchid is an Australian native, occurring in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, across the top end of the Northern Territory, and in north-eastern Queensland on some of the Torres Strait islands and from Cape York to Bowen. It is also found in New Guinea. It occurs on rainforest margins, in open forests and around swamps, growing in dark peaty soil at altitudes from sea level to 500 m, and it can form large colonies.

The plant is terrestrial, growing from small tubers. These are ovoid or ellipsoid in shape, more-or-less dorsoventrally flattened, and more-or-less pubescent. Some plants are sterile, with a single leaf. Fertile plants have initially a terminal inflorescence, a single leaf arising later from the base of the scape, after the inflorescence has withered. The leaf is stiffly erect, apical, with petioles 3 - 5 cm long; the lamina is broadly ovate, 15 - 20 cm long by 5 - 7 cm broad, dark green in colour, pleated with 7 prominent veins, the apex acute to acuminate. The dorsal sepal is erect or incurved, 20 - 25 mm by 3 - 3.5 mm. The lateral sepals are divergent, with similar measurements. The petals are spreading, 19 - 23 mm by 3 - 3.5 mm. The labellum measures 18- 2 4 mm by 10 - 14 mm, and is 3-lobed, the lateral lobes incurved to enclose the column. The mid-lobe has a filigree of darker hairy veins, and has undulate margins and 3 narrow hairy ridges. The column is about 1 cm long or a little more, and is wider towards the tip. The flowers are pleasantly fragrant.

The fruits are capsules, pendulous and dehiscent.

The inflorescence, occurring November to December, is rarely seen in the wild, as it appears soon after the first heavy rains of the wet season, and lives for only 1 - 4 days. The raceme is 15 - 25 cm tall, fleshy, the peduncle elongating in fruit. There are 1-many flowers, resupinate, porrect to nodding, star-shaped, 2-3 cm long and wide, pink, cream or greenish in colour with a pink to mauve labellum. The sepals and petals are linear to narrowly obovate. The flowers can be erect, horizontal or pendant, the last usually when fertilized.


Photographed on Magnetic Island 2017
Page last updated 11th February 2019