Phaius tancarvilliae

Distribution Map
Family: Orchidaceae
Distribution: North Queensland to north-eastern New South Wales, usually in wet areas.
Common Name: Swamp lily.
Derivation of Name: Phaius...From Greek phaios, dusky. apparently referring to the flower colour but most are anything but "dusky"!
tancarvilliae...After Lady Tankerville.
Conservation Status: Listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act* (ie. facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future, as determined in accordance with prescribed criteria). Classified as 3VC- under the ROTAP * system.

General Description:

Phaius is a small genus of about 20 species of evergreen terrestrial orchids, three of which occur in Australia.

Phaius tancarvilliae
Phaius tancarvilliae
Photo: Keith Townsend

Phaius tancarvilliae is the most widely cultivated species. It is a robust plant with elongated, oval shaped leaves up to about a metres or more long and flowering stems which may reach 2 metres. The flowers are the largest of any Australian orchid and occur in clusters of between four and twelve. The individual flowers are about 100mm diameter and are reddish brown and white in colour. Flowering occurs in spring.

Unlike most Australian terrestrial orchids, P.tancarvilliae is easily grown. It does best in a large container with a potting mix which is high in humus content. It prefers a position in semi-shade.

Phaius tancarvilliae is easily propagated from seed and may also be propagated by division of the clump. It is also reported that new plants can be obtained by cutting the flower stem into pieces and placing them on a moist surface.

Note: there has been some conjecture over the spelling of the specific name of this species. The following explanation by A.W.Dockrill in the journal Australian Plants, December 1970 issue has been used as the basis of the spelling adopted here. However, it is understood that the NSW Royal Botanic Gardens has reverted to the old spelling "tankervilliae":

"Information from the Kew Herbarium has shown that the above spelling ("tankervilliae") is incorrect. The species was named after Tankerville but obviously Banks realised that this name could not be properly Latinised so he called the plant Limodorum tancarvilleae. As this spelling was deliberate and not an unintentional error, those later workers who altered the spelling to tankervillei, tankervilleae or tankervilliae erred. Modern convention has decreed that endings of "eae" should be altered to "iae"......."

* EPBC Act = Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;
  ROTAP = Rare or Threatened Australian Plants (Briggs and Leigh, 1988)
  For further information refer the Australian Plants at Risk page


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