Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids

Cirrhopetalum clavigerum

Pale Umbrella Orchid

Cirrhopetalum clavigerum Fitzg., J. Bot. 21: 204 (1883); Bulbophyllum clavigerum (Fitzg.) F.Muell., Syst. cens. Aust. pl., Suppl. 1: 3 (1884); Bulbophyllum clavigerum F.M.Bailey, Proc. Roy. Soc. Queensland 1: 88 (1884), nom. illeg.; Phyllorchis clavigera (Fitzg.) Kuntze, Revis. gen. pl. 2: 677 (1891). Type: Cape York Peninsula, Jan., R.D. Fitzgerald s.n. (holo BM not found; lectotype Fitzgerald’s plate), fide Clements (1989).

Cirrhopetalum kenejianum Schltr., Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. Beih. 1: 899 (1913). Type: Kaiser-Wilhelms-Land: On trees in the forests on the Kenejia [River], alt. c. 150 m, Oct. 1908, R. Schlechter 18462 (holo B).

Bulophyllum longifolium auct. non Thouars; Seidenf., Dansk. Bot. Ark. 29: 126-134 (1973).


Occurs in far north-eastern Queensland on Iron Range and McIlwraith Range on Cape York Peninsula.

Altitude: 300-500 m.

Also found in Indonesia, New Caledonia, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.


Epiphyte or lithophytic herb forming small clumps. Rhizomes creeping, appressed to host, 8 mm thick. Pseudobulbs widely spaced, erect, conical to ovoid, 3-4.5 cm x 1.5-2 cm, dark green, fleshy, grooved, often with hair-like remnants of decayed sheathing bracts. Leaf solitary on pseudobulb, erect, apical, shortly petiolate; lamina oblong to narrowly ovate, 8-15 cm x 2-3 cm, dark green, moderately thick and fleshy. Inflorescence an axillary umbel, erect to arching, 100-200 mm long, wiry, from base of pseudobulb; pedicels 15-20 mm long. Flowers 5-8, resupinate, porrect, in semi-circular array, each flower 30-40 mm x 3-5 mm, greenish cream to yellowish, with purple spots. Dorsal sepal erect, hooded, ovate, 6-8 mm x 4-5 mm, apex with erect filiform cilium. Lateral sepals deflexed, twisted at base, 'outer' margins fused for ¾ their length to form a synsepalum, 25-35 mm x 3-5 mm, bases fused to column foot; margins incurved. Petals spreading, triangular, falcate, 6-9 mm x 2 mm; upper margins and apex with long thin hairs. Labellum unlobed, hinged on the apex of the column foot, 4-5 mm x 2-2.5 mm, dark purple, thick, fleshy, curved, with a central groove. Column at an angle to the ovary, 3 mm x 1 mm, with prominent wings. Column foot at an acute angle to the column, curved, 4 mm long. Capsules erect, dehiscent.


Grows on trees, vines and rocks in rainforests, usually where there is high humidity and an abundance of air movement.

Highly localised.

Flowering: February-March.


In various flora treatments this species has been confused with C. umbellatum (G.Forst.) Reinw. ex Hook.f. from Polynesia, which can be distinguished by the prominent red marbled patterns on the lateral sepals and the smaller triangular petals; also with C. longiflorum Thouars from Mauritius and Africa which has lateral sepals that narrow distally to form a tapered synsepalum.

This species was once reported to be locally plentiful at some localities in the McIlwraith Range, but the populations have been decimated by unscrupulous collectors. It is now considered vulnerable.

Name Changes

Until recently known as Bulbophyllum clavigerum and confused with Bulophyllum longifolium.

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