Scientific name: Phaius australis

Other names: Lesser-Swamp Orchid; Swamp Lilly, Island-Swamp Orchid


  • Queensland: Endangered (NCA 1992)
  • National: Endangered (EPBCA 1999)

What does it look like?

The Southern Swamp Orchid is the largest flowering Australian orchid species. A terrestrial orchid, the species grows in clumps arising from a fleshy bulb near ground level.

The leaves of the plant are large and long (30-70cm) with a pleated appearance. They are relatively narrow (3-7cm wide) with a fleshy base and a dark green colour with a thin-textured, wavy appearance and spread in a tussock.

The flower stalks grow up to 2 m tall with large showy flowers, 20 per stem. The flowers are white on the outside and brown with white or yellow veins on the inside. The central tongue of the flower is often pink with slightly curved lobes. The flowers are slightly perfumed and are 10-15cm across. Most flowers usually set fruit. The flowering season occurs between August and December. Pods are large, 3 chambered capsules, splitting when ripe to release numerous fine white seeds.

Where is it found?

The Southern Swamp Orchid is endemic to Australia and occurs in southern Queensland and northern NSW. The majority of the population is on the mainland but there have been specimens found on the large sand islands off south-east mainland of Queensland. Most populations have very few individuals, with a total of only about 180 plants known in the wild.

A coastal species, the Southern Swamp Orchid grows in swampy grasslands or swampy forests including rainforest, eucalypt or paperbark forests. A very dense understory to 1.5m is usually where the species in found, within close proximity to water but not submerged.

What is threatening it?

  • Illegal collection
  • Loss of habitat and habitat degradation
  • Degradation from human activities
  • Invasive species
  • Cattle.

Conservation actions

The Southern Swamp Orchid is protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and the Environmental Protection and Diversity Act 1999. It is an offence to damage or interfere with the Southern Swamp Orchid in any other way 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 plants such as the Southern Swamp Orchid.

Did you know...?

Flowers are long lasting and open progressively expanding the flowering seasons. Both cross and self-pollination have been documented but the exact breeding systems are unknown.

How you can help

Do not remove the plant from the wild - report any illegal removal and report any finds of the orchid. 

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