Plants of
South Australia
Calochilus robertsonii
Purplish Beard-orchid
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
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Data deficient
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock paintings: 2.


Calochilus from the Greek 'callos' meaning beauty and 'cheilos' meaning lip, referring to the ornamented labellum of most species. Robertsonii named after John George Robertson (1807-1890), a 19th century collector for Kew.

Distribution and status

Found on Kangaroo Island, southern Mount Lofty Ranges and the South-east in South Australia, growing singly or in small groups in open forest or around swamp margins. Also found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Native. Rare in South Australia. Rare in Queensland. Common in the other States.
Herbarium regions: Murray, Southern Lofty, Kangaroo Island, South Eastern, Green Adelaide
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Kangaroo Island, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, South East
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Terrestrial orchid growing to 60 cm tall with up to 9 flowers on each stem. Flowers are green with reddish stripes, dorsal sepal, erect to 20 mm long. Labellum is very distinctive, covered with crowded purple calli at the base and long reddish purple glistening glandular hairs which become yellowish at its tip. Flowering between December and February. Fruits are brown papery ellipsoid capsule. Seeds are very small brown ellipsoid seed with a long cylindrical translucent brown mesh-like covering.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between February and April. Collect fat capsules as they start to dry and turn brown. Pods will split and release the seeds quickly and will require monitoring. To increase the chances of collecting mature pods, it is recommended that a small breathable bag (ie. Organza bags) be used to enclose the developing capsules. Place the capsules in a container that will hold fine seeds and leave to dry for a few weeks or until the capsule split. Then carefully hold the capsule and tap it gently to release the seeds. Store the seeds with a desiccant such as dried silica beads or dry rice, in an air tight container in a cool and dry place, refrigerator or in liquid nitrogen. For the NVC South East Orchid Project two populations consisting of more than forty individuals were recorded in the Bangham and Naracoorte area. A total of 1320,000 seeds (0.53 g) were banked from this population. Seed viability ranged from 78% to 87%. Seed germination in Calochilus species is difficult without compatible mycorrhizal fungi. More research is needed in order to understand the germination requirements in the genus Calochilus.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
BGA170,000 (0.069 g)312-Oct-2013KHB776
South Eastern
BGA1,150,000 (0.461 g)20+18-Nov-2013DJD2777
South Eastern
BGA1,952,600 (0.78 g)1023-Nov-2018JRG701
South Eastern
24-Apr-2019N/C-18°C, -80°C
Location: BGA — the seeds are stored at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, MSB — the seeds are stored at the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew, England.
Number of plants: This is the number of plants from which the seeds were collected.
Collection location: The Herbarium of South Australia's region name.
% Viability: Percentage of filled healthy seeds determined by a cut test or x-ray.