Townsonia deflexa


deflexa: Bent sharply downwards

Common Name(s)

None known

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Sparse


2012 - Sp


Townsonia deflexa Cheeseman



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class



Townsonia viridis sensu Schltr. nom. inv., New Zealand plants had been referred to Acianthus viridis Hook.f. which is now regarded as an Australian endemic Townsonia viridis (Hook.f.) Schltr.


Endemic. North, South, Stewart, Auckland and Campbell Islands


Lowland to upper montane and subalpine habitats (confined to upper montane and subalpine in northern part of range). A small, easily overlooked orchid favouring mossy logs and deep moss patches where it forms small diffuse colonies. It is often (though not exclusively, e.g., Stewart Island) associated with Nothofagus Blume forests.


Dark green to bright green slender 50-150 mm orchid, spreading though mossy patches and leaf litter usually in forest. Stem erect, very slender almost translucent. Cauline leaf confined to flowering plants, this 10 mm long, green, orbicular to oblong, apiculate, sessile, usually positioned at mid section of stem. Leaf of sterile and flowering plants, distinctly petiolate, arising from horizontal rhizomes near to or remote from flowering stems; lamina 10 mm long, orbicular to broadly ovate, obtuse to apiculate, rounded or subcordate at base, margin more or less finely crenate. Inflorescence a 10-20 mm long raceme; 1-4-flowered. Floral bracts small, membranous, translucent. Perianth 5 mm long, horizontal and deflexed, greenish. Sepals with thick rounded keels and mor eor less involute margins; dorsal sepal broad, subacute; lateral sepals slightly longer, minutely cucullate. Petals very much shorter, oblong, erect. Labellum shorter than sepals, broad-ovate, partly embracing column; apex more or less obtse, recurved; proximal part concave, marked by median triangular thickening and 2 low longitudinal ridges of basal calli. Column shorter than labellum; wings broad throughout, sharply truncate or almost toothed above. Anther partly hidden behind very prominent stigma.

Similar Taxa

A very distinctive species which is very unlikely to be confused with any other New Zealand orchid species. It is perhaps most similar in flower shape and general structure to Acianthus sinclairii Hook.f. but that speces has a single, sessile, ovate, acuminate, green leaf with strongly cordate bases (hence its vernacular: heart-leaved orchid) and the larger flowers have sepals ending in solid tail-like appendages (cauda), and an unwinged column. The flowers of Acianthus sinclairii tend to be more red-green, with a larger hooded somewhat translucent, red-spotted dorsal sepal, and larger green, red-rimmed labellum, in contrast to the relatively inconspicuous, fairly uniformly bright green somewhat hyaline translucent flowers of Townsonia deflexa (note that the basal portion of the labellum in Townsonia is often blotched maroon).


November - February

Flower Colours

Green,Red / Pink


December - April

Propagation Technique

Difficult - should not be removed from the wild.


An apparently naturally uncommon, biologically sparse species that does not seem to have ever been subject to any significant decline. However, some of its northern South Island, West Coast habitats are threatened by coal mining.

Chromosome No.

2n = 28

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy
Not commercially available


Townsonia has had a vexed history being various treated as Acianthus viridis, Townsonia viridis or the New Zealand endemic T. deflexa. Based on a mostly unpublished molecular (nrITS based study) and limited chromosomal evidence Townsonia was reinstated as a genus distinct from Acianthus (B.P.J. Molloy pers. comm.) and a recent as yet unpublished (now in press) study of the Australian and New Zealand Orchidaceae has upheld this (P. Weston pers. comm. November 2014). However, further work is needed to determine whether T. deflexa is truly distinct from the Tasmanian T. viridis - for now it is accepted as such.


Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 14 April 2007: Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970).

References and further reading

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. II. Government Printer, Wellington.

This page last updated on 3 Dec 2014