Plants of
South Australia
Diuris brevifolia
Short-leaf Donkey-orchid,
Late Donkey-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: 3

Prior names

Diuris sulphurea var. brevifolia

Diuris emarginata

Diuris sulphurea ssp. brevifolia, nom.inval. (in error)

Common names

Short-leaf Donkey-orchid

Late Donkey-orchid


Diuris from the Greek 'dis' meaning double and 'oura' meaning a tail; referring to the drooping lateral sepals resembling tails, on some species. Brevifolia from the Latin 'brevis' meaning short and 'folium' meaning a leaf, referring to the species short and twisted leaves.

Distribution and status

Endemic to South Australia and found on Kangaroo island and southern Mount Lofty Ranges growing on the edges of ephemeral swamps, river flats and valley and ridge slopes which are prone to waterlogging, in dense shrubland on moist to wet soils. Native. Very rare in South Australia.
Herbarium regions: Southern Lofty, Kangaroo Island, Green Adelaide
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Kangaroo Island
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Terrestrial orchid to 40 cm high in flower. Leaves two to eight, short, narrow and twisted in an erect tuft. Inflorescence at the end of a slender, almost wiry stem with two to five, large, buttercup yellow flowers with a few brown markings. Dorsal sepal to 11 mm long, recurved, with a dark-brown spot on each side of the lower surface near the base. Lateral sepals to 23 mm long, parallel or slightly recurved, green or green and brown. Petals to 14 mm long, on a brown stalk to 3 mm long, spreading; lamina elliptical, yellow. Labellum sessile, 3-lobed, trapezoid, yellow; at least as long as the dorsal sepal and usually longer. Flowering between late October and December. Fruits are brown papery ellipsoid capsule. Seeds are very small brown ellipsoid seed with a translucent brown mesh-like covering.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between November and January. 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 capsules 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.

Fire response

Obligate re-spouter and re-seeder.

Longevity: >20 years

Time to flowering: 2 to 3 years

Recovery work

In 2020-2021 this species was assessed post-fire in 1 year after the 2020 bushfires. A total of 966,00 seeds have been collected & banked for 6 population that occurred within the 2020 fire scar. This project work banking multiple provenance collections and investigating symbiotic in-vitro propagation for future recovery work was supported by the John T Reid Foundation. Fire assessments of multiple populations and seed testing was undertaken with funding awarded under Greening Australia's Project Phoenix.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
BGA85,000 (0.077 g)17 pods12-Jan-2011J. Quarmby
Southern Lofty
BGA45,000 (0.041 g)22 pods12-Jan-2011J. Quarmby
Southern Lofty
BGA130,000 (0.122 g)44 pods12-Jan-2011J. Quarmby
Southern Lofty
BGA110,000 (0.099 g)38 pods12-Jan-2011J. Quarmby
Southern Lofty
BGA2,000 (0.002 g)24-Oct-2015B.Overton
Kangaroo Island
BGA1,000 (0.0013 g)3-Jan-2017OVE3205
Kangaroo Island
BGA280,000 (0.26 g)716-Dec-2015DJD3269
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.