Describing the New Zealand orchid flora

Te Papa researchers: Carlos Lehnebach and Lara Shepherd

We are using data from herbarium specimens, field collections and DNA analyses to investigate the taxonomic status of orchids in the genera Corybas (spider orchids), Pterostylis (greenhood orchids), Prasophyllum (leek orchids), Spiranthes (lady’s tresses orchid) and Thelymitra (sun orchids).

For decades some of these orchids have been only known by tag-names (nicknames) and, although they are not officially recognised as species, many have already joined the list of New Zealand’s threatened plants.

A closeup of small plants with a hand in the background for contrast


Spider orchid (Corybas sp.). Photo by Carlos Lehnebach. Te Papa

A sheet with five plant specimens laid on it and a scientific note in the bottom-right corner


Herbarium specimen of leek orchid (Prasophyllum sp.). Photo by Nathaniel Walker-Hale. Te Papa

Close up of four white flowers growing up from the leafy ground


Sun orchid (Thelymitra sp.). Photo by Carlos Lehnebach. Te Papa

Funding: Australia and Pacific Science Foundation (Grant APSF19047, awarded to Carlos Lehnebach and Lara Shepherd).

Representative publications:

Lehnebach CA, Rolfe JR, Gibbins J, Ritchie. 2016. Two new species of Gastrodia (Gastrodieae, Orchidaceae) endemic to New Zealand. Phytotaxa 277: 237–254.

Lehnebach CA, Zeller AJ, Frericks J, Ritchie P. 2015. Five new species of Corybas (Diurideae, Orchidaceae) endemic to New Zealand and phylogeny of the Nematoceras clade. Phytotaxa 270: 1–24.