Corybas acuminatus


Corybas: helmet flower

Common Name(s)

Spider Orchid

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

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 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Corybas acuminatus M.A.Clements et Hatch



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



Corysanthes acuminata (M.A.Clem. et Hatch) Szlach.; Nematoceras acuminatum (M.A.Clem. et Hatch) Molloy, D.L.Jones et M.A.Clem.


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


Lowland to subalpine in damp, usually shaded sites. Preferring tall indigenous forest but also found under dense scrub and around tarns and mires


Mainly solitary, terrestrial, tuberous, glabrous, winter to summer-green herb. Plant at flowering up to 60 mm tall. Leaf sessile, up to 40 x 20 mm, ovate-acuminate to deltoid, repand, cordate at the base, margins usually undulating; light green above with conspicuous reddish veining, silvery beneath. Leaves of young plants reniform or broadly cordate, rarely pandurate, apiculate, without reddish veining. Floral bract shortly caudate, secondary bract subulate. Flower usually solitary, sessile, more or less translucent, with dull red stripes. Dorsal sepal up to 40 mm long, extending as horizontal, filiform caudae. Lateral sepals filiform, erect and very long, tapering, exceeding the flower by as much as 60 mm. Petals similar, smaller, horizontal or deflexed. Labellum bearing two rounded auricles near base; lamina expanded, abruptly deflexed, mucronate, the margins irregularly fimbriate to entire. Column very short with large basal callus; column-wings minutely denticulate and exceeding the anther; stigma orbicular, pollinia 4, massulate. Seeding peduncle up to 180 tall.

Similar Taxa

Easily recognised by the green, sessile, triangular, sharply acute leaf with undulating margins and reddish veins, and by the very long dorsal and lateral sepals, and very pale translucent greenish-white, purple flecked flower.


August - December

Flower Colours

Green,Red / Pink


October - April

Propagation Technique

Difficult - should not be removed from the wild. Can be grown in basic orchid mix consists of 2 parts medium coarse sand, ideally clean river sand; 2 parts soil, humus or leaf-mould; 1 part weathered sawdust or rotting wood; 1 part granulated bark. Many Corybas thrive when more leaf-mould is added, and the plants grown in 50-70% shade, in the cooler, darker end of the shade-house, in pots kept moist throughout the growing period.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 36

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available.


Considerable research is underway to investigate the validity of the segregate genera split from Corybas R.Br. by Jones et al. (2002). Whilst much of that work has yet to be published, on advice from Australian Orchidologists Peter Weston and Stephen Hopper (pers. comm., July 2011, November 2014), all of the segregate genera recognised for New Zealand by Jones et al. (2002) are returned to Corybas.

Recently Lehnebach (2016) has made three combinations for those Nematoceras lacking valid names in Corybas. This action now enables the full transfer of Nematoceras back to Corybas. However, as of writing, a formal publication rejecting the segregation of Corybas by Jones et al. (2002) has yet to be published. Lehnebach cites an unpublished PhD (Lyon 2014) that indicates this move is imminent.


Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 14 April 2007. Description based on: Clements (1985). This was the species treated as C. rivularis (Nematoceras rivulare (A.Cunn.) Hook.f.)) by Moore in Moore & Edgar (1970).

References and further reading

Clements, M.A.; Hatch, E.D. 1985: Corybas acuminatus (Orchidaceae) - a new name for the specuies previously considered to be Corybas rivularis. New Zealand Journal of Botany 23: 491-494.

Jones, D.L.; Clements, M.A.; Sharma, I.K.; Mackenzie, A.M.; Molloy, B.P.J. 2002: Nomenclatural notes arising from studies into the Tribe Diurideae (Orchidaceae). The Orchadian 13: 437-468.

Lehnebach, C. 2016: New combinations and a replacement name for three New Zealand spider orchids (Corybas). The New Zealand Native Orchid Journal 139. 4-5.

Lyon, S. P. 2014: Molecular systematics, biogeography, and mycorrhizal associations in the Acianthinae (Orchidaceae), with a focus on the genus Corybas. PhD Thesis, University of Wisconsin-Madison. USA.

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

This page last updated on 16 Jan 2016