Prev Genus: Genus Myrmechis

Genus Nervilia

Genus Nervilia

Nervilia Comm. ex Gaudich., in Freyc., Voy.Uranie, Bot. (1826) 422


  • Genus Aplostellis Thouars, Hist. Orchid. (1822) t. 24
  • Genus Bolborchis Zoll. & Moritzi, Syst. Verz. Zoll. (1845-46) 89
  • Genus Cordyla Blume, Bijdr. (1825) 416
  • Genus Roptrostemon Blume, Fl. Javae (1828) vi
  • Genus Stellorkis Thouars, Nouv. Bull. Sci. Soc. Philom. Paris 19 (1809) 317

Terrestrial plants with subterranean tuberous rhizome. Shoot 1-leaved. Leaves more or less round or heart-shaped, hairy or glabrous, plicate, not articulated, convolute, sometimes spotted, usually absent during the flowering period, thin-textured. Inflorescence a 2- to many-flowered raceme or carrying a single flower, usually produced in the rainy season before the leaves appear. Flowers small to medium-sized, resupinate. Sepals and petals free, similar to each other. Lip without spur, not mobile. Column-foot absent. Pollinia 2, sectile, caudicles absent, stipe absent, viscidium absent.

Tropical Africa, Sri Lanka, tropical continental Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Pacific islands, east to Tahiti. About 65 species; in New Guinea c. 12 species (see under Notes below).

Terrestrial on open slopes, in forests, in grasslands on poor soils, etc., generally below 1000 m but sometimes up to 1500 m above sea level.

  • Howcroft, N.H.S. 1984. A guide to the Monocotyledons of Papua New Guinea. Part 4. The Orchidaceae (in part). Pp. 121-124, fig. 68-69. PNG University of Technology, Lae.
  • Petterson, B. 1991. The genus Nervilia (Orchidaceae) in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Orchid Monogr. 5: 1-90.
  • Schlechter, R. 1911. Die Polychondreae (Neottiinae Pfitz.) und ihre systematische Einteilung. Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 45: 375-410.
  • Seidenfaden, G. 1975. Orchid genera in Thailand VI: Neottioideae Lindl. Dansk Bot. Ark. 32: 1-195. (Nervilia Pp. )
  • Subfamily Epidendroideae
  • Tribe Nervilieae
  • Genus Nervilia

Nervilia is an easily recognised genus of terrestrial orchids with round, kidney-shaped, or heart-shaped, strongly plicate leaves, which usually appear after the flowering period. Nervilia is rarely cultivated, although both the leaves and the flowers are rather attractive.

Schlechter (1911) proposed a sectional classification, which is at least of some value for identification purposes:


(modified and updated from Schlechter's (1911))

1a. Inflorescence 1-flowered, much elongating in the fruiting stage (Section Linervia) == 2
1b. Inflorescence at least 2-flowered, not elongating in the fruiting stage. == 6

2a. Front margin of the lip irregularly crisped-laciniate == Nervilia crociformis
2b. Front margin of the lip flat, entire or 3-lobed == 3

3a. 22a. Lip entire == Nervilia acuminata
3b. Lip 3-lobed == 4

4 a. Lip inside glabrous, without keels == Nervilia imperatetorum
4 b. Lip inside with two hairy keels == 5

5 a. Lip mid-lobemuch longer than wide == Nervilia pallidiflora
5 b. Lip mid-lobe only slightly longer than wide == Nervilia punctata

6 a. Inflorescence 2- to 3-flowered, with very short rachis (Section Vinerlia) == 7
6 b. Inflorescence 3- to many-flowered, with elongated rachis (Section Nervilia) == 8

7 a. Lip apex apiculate == Nervilia apiculata
7 b. Lip apex rounded-truncate to retuse == Nervilia plicata

8 a. Lateral lobes of the lip broadly rounded. Inflorescence 2- to 4-flowered == Nervilia campestris
8 b. Lateral lobes of the lip triangular. Inflorescence 4- to many-flowered == 9

10 a. Sepals 1.5-2.5 cm long. == Nervilia aragoana
10 b. Sepals 2.8 cm long == Nervilia macrophylla

Apart from the 10 species described here there are at least two more species of Nervilia in New Guinea. One of these is represented by a sterile collection (Carr 10011, from PNG, Kanosia), which may be Nervilia holochila (F.Muell.) Schltr. This Australian species is distinguished by its glabrous, ovate leaves. The second is here illustrated by a fine drawing by Neville Howcroft (Howcroft 14) from Bumbu, PNG. This species is related to Nervilia punctata (Blume) Makino, but differs in its rounded lateral lobes and different, largely glabrous keels on the lip. It may be an undescribed species and is also recorded from the vicinity of Jayapura in Indonesian Papua.

The genus Nervilia in New Guinea contains 10 species:

Nervilia acuminata
Nervilia apiculata
Nervilia aragoana
Nervilia campestris
Nervilia crociformis
Nervilia imperatetorum
Nervilia macrophylla
Nervilia pallidiflora
Nervilia plicata
Nervilia punctata

Sponsored Ads

Genus Nervilia

Nervilia plicata (Andrews) Schltr., habit, photo N.E.G. Cruttwell

Genus Nervilia

Nervilia aragoana Gaudich., habit, photo Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, based on Edinburgh cult. X62-3560 (Woods 114)

Genus Nervilia

Nervilia acuminata (J.J.Sm.) Schltr., flower, photo W. Harris, based on Harris 1721, from PNG, Libano River

Genus Nervilia

Nervilia acuminata (J.J.Sm.) Schltr., habit, drawing J.J. Smith, based on Djibdja 361

Genus Nervilia

Nervilia aragoana Gaudich., drawing N.H.S. Howcroft 120, from PNG, Finschhafen

Genus Nervilia

Nervilia aff. punctata (Blume) Makino, drawing N.H.S. Howcroft 14, from Bumbu Hoop stand

Genus Nervilia

Nervilia campestris (J.J.Sm.) Schltr., habit, drawing by R. Natadipoera