Thelymitra is a genus of about 80 species of terrestrial tuberous plants in the Orchidaceae family distributed throughout Australia, New Zealand and islands to the north of Australia. They are known as "sun orchids" because the colorful flowers of most species only open fully on warm, sunny days, with the desert species requiring more heat than those from temperate areas. This page covers Thelymitra species m-z.
Thelymitra macrophylla Lindl. is common from Perth to Israelite Bay in Western Australia. It reportedly has a sour smell. Photos by Ron Heberle.
Thelymitra mucida Fitzg., the plum sun orchid, ranges from Western Australia to Tasmania. Photos by Ron Heberle.
Thelymitra nuda R.Br., the scented sun orchid, looks similar to T. pauciflora but is generally taller and has larger flowers that open more readily. It is widespread in forested parts of Australia. Photos by Ron Heberle.
Thelymitra pauciflora R.Br., the slender sun orchid, is found in almost all the Australian states and in New Zealand. It is found in many habitats. It is usually 10 to 30 cm high with only a few flowers ranging from pale to deep blue, mauve, or even creamy yellow. It has a reputation for only opening reluctantly unless it is in very strong sunlight. The column is erect with usually white hair tufts and a hood that is yellow at the apex and bluish or dark grey near the middle. The first three photos were taken by Mary Sue Ittner and Bob Rutemoeller near Albany, Western Australia, and Apollo Bay, Victoria of we think could be this species. Fourth photo by Ron Heberle.
Thelymitra petrophila Jeanes is listed in the Flora Base of Western Australia as having blue or purple flowers and as found in southwestern Western Australia where it grows in many types of soil on rock outcrops soil pockets, dunes, hills, seasonally wet sites, and disturbed ground. The first two photos from iNaturalist were taken in Western Australia in September and shared under a CC BY-NC license. The last photo below taken at a wildflower show in Albany, September 2007, by Mary Sue Ittner, was labeled with this name even though the color looks wrong.
Thelymitra psammophila C.R.P.Andrews, the sandplain sun orchid, grows along the southern coast of Western Australia, in the Albany district. It grows among heath, in sandy clay soil that is wet in winter. Some reports say it is strongly fragrant. Photos by Ron Heberle.
Thelymitra rubra Fitzg. or the salmon sun orchid is a widespread species growing in marshy lands, in forest or open heathland in the Australian states of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Southern Australia. The flowers are 7 to 9 mm and reddish or salmon pink. The column is erect with a yellow to orange apex and two yellow hairless lobes. Photos were taken October 2007 near Apollo Bay by Mary Sue Ittner and Bob Rutemoeller.
Thelymitra sargentii R.S.Rogers, the freckled sun orchid, grows in Western Australia in shrubby forest and sandplains. Photos by Ron Heberle.
Thelymitra sp. This species photographed near the Kalgan River, Albany by Bob Rutemoeller could be Thelymitra pauciflora or a hybrid of that species, perhaps with Thelymitra ixioides.
Thelymitra spiralis (Lindl.) F.Muell., or Curly Locks, has very variable flower color and, as the name suggests, spiral leaves. It grows in several parts of Western Australia, from Perth to Esperance. Photos by Ron Heberle. The last two photos show var. punctata Nicholls and var. scoulerae Nicholls, in 2022 considered to be synonyms of the species.
Thelymitra stellata Lindl., the star sun orchid, is known from 23 sites in Western Australia, most near Perth. The number of plants in each site is generally ten or lower. Photos by Ron Heberle.
Thelymitra variegata (Lindl.) F.Muell., the Queen of Sheba orchid, has iridescent, spectacularly-colored flowers and is native to sandy heath and forest in Western Australia. Photos by Ron Heberle.
Thelymitra villosa Lindl., the custard orchid, grows in wet spots in southwestern Western Australia. Photos by Ron Heberle.