Plants of
South Australia
Cryptostylis subulata
Moose orchid,
Large Tongue-orchid
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
Least concern
Near threatened
Critically endangered
Data deficient
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock paintings: 8

Prior names

Malaxia subulata

Malaxis subulata

Cryptostylis longifolia, nom.illeg.

Common names

Moose orchid

Large Tongue-orchid


Cryptostylis from the Greek 'cryptos' meaning hidden and 'stylon' meaning column, style, referring to the recessed column. Subulata from the Latin 'subulata' meaning depressed, referring to the labellum being angled down toward its apex.

Distribution and status

Found on Kangaroo Island, southern Mount Lofty Ranges and the lower South-east in South Australia, growing in swamps, marshes, bog and along the edges of streams, often found in Leptospermum continentale shrublands and on sandy soils. Also found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Native. Rare in South Australia. Common in the other States.
Herbarium regions: Southern Lofty, Kangaroo Island, South Eastern
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Kangaroo Island, South East
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Annual terrestrial orchid growing to 80 cm tall with up to 20 flowers. Erect leathery lanceolate leaves with both surfaces dark green to yellow green, to 35 cm long. Flowers have a large labellum to 30 mm long, ovate with recurved margins, grading from yellow to reddish at tip. Sepals are yellowish-green to 35 mm long. Flowering between November and April. 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 March and June. Collect plump 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. More research is needed in order to understand the requirements for seed germination in the genus Cryptostylis.

Fire response

Obligate re-spouter and re-seeder.

Longevity: ??? years

Time to flowering: ???? years

Recovery work

In 2020-2021 this species was assessed post-fire in 1 year old fire scars. A total of 1,775,000 seeds have been collected & banked for a population outside the 2020 fire scar. Further populations will be assessed and seeds collected on Kangaroo Island in 2021–2022. Germination screening testing the response to fire cues will be undertaken in 2021.This project was supported by the Wildlife & Habitat Bushfire Recovery program.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage

100,000 (0.1536 g)
South Eastern
BGA80,000 (0.028 g)41-Feb-2015OVE3939
Kangaroo Island
BGA60,000 (0.021 g)1526-Mar-2014BTH6
South Eastern
BGA110,000 (0.039 g)630-Mar-2015OVE3203
Kangaroo Island
BGA1,775,000 (0.625 g)30+4-Mar-2021DJD4016
Southern Lofty
28-Jun-2021N/C-18°C, -80°C
BGA1,955,114 (0.688 g)10+28-Feb-2022DJD4106
Kangaroo Island
10-Aug-2022N/C-18°C, -80°C
BGA593,182 (0.209 g)10+3-Mar-2022DJD4117
Kangaroo Island
10-Aug-2022N/C-18°C, -80°C
BGA37,200 (0.013 g)119-Nov-2021Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
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.