Plants and trees in the Redlands - Lesser swamp-orchid

Scientific name: Phaius australis


  • National: Endangered (Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006)
  • Queensland: Endangered (Environment Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999)

What does it look like?

Lesser Swamp-orchids are ground dwelling and produce the largest flowers of any Australian orchid. Each plant of the Lesser Swamp-orchid has four to eight large, pleated leaves and one or two flower stalks which grow up to two metres tall. The leaves of this orchid are long and relatively narrow, similar to the other swamp-orchids. The perfumed flowers are red-brown with yellow veins inside the flower. 

Where is it found?

The largest populations are found on the sand islands off the coast of south-east Queensland, especially North Stradbroke Island. The remnant mainland populations are small and scattered. The distribution of the Lesser Swamp-orchid reaches from Lake Cathie (near Port Macquarie) to the Barron River in north-east Queensland.

What is threatening it?

The main threats are from land clearing and the illegal collection of plants. Some orchid enthusiasts regard this species as one of the most desirable for their collections and exploitation of the wild populations is a continuing and constant threat.

Native animals, such as wallabies, like to chew on the foliage and are usually not a threat to the plants survival. However pest animals such as wild pigs threaten small populations as they enjoy eating the orchid’s tubers, which can cause plant death.

Fire can be considered a threat, however, if the fire is not too hot the plant can survive and the tubers will reshoot.


Lesser Swamp-orchid is protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. It is an offense to damage or interfere with Lesser Swamp-orchid in any way other than when accepted by the respective Acts.

Redland City Council manages environmental weeds throughout the Redlands Coast to minimise their impact on native ecosystems and endangered plants such as the Lesser Swamp-orchid.

Did you know…

Lesser Swamp-orchids are ground dwelling and produce the largest flowers of any Australian orchid. A similar but distinctly different species, Phaius bernaysii, display yellow flowers while Phaius australis have red-brown flowers.

How can you help?

Only purchase a Lesser Swamp-orchid from reputable nurseries and check the provenance before planting.

Manage environmental weeds on your property - see IndigiScapes’ brochure entitled Environmental Weeds of the Redlands [PDF, 5.0MB] or visit the centre for help identifying weeds and tips on how to remove them and stop them from spreading.

Record your sightings on the Atlas of Living Australia