Nature conservation

Threatened species

Leafless Tongue Orchid - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Cryptostylis hunteriana
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Vulnerable
Profile last updated: 12 Jan 2021


As its name implies, the Leafless Tongue Orchid has no leaf. It produces an upright flower-stem to 45 cm tall, bearing five to 10 flowers between November (early flowering in October observed) and February (late flowerin in March observed). It has small narrow green sepals and petals to 22 mm long, but is dominated by an erect narrow very hairy ‘tongue’ (the labellum). This is up to 33 mm long, maroon along the margins and at the widened tip, and with a black central band. All other tongue orchids have leaves; most have a downward pointing labellum.


The Leafless Tongue Orchid has been recorded from as far north as Gibraltar Range National Park south into Victoria around the coast as far as Orbost. It is known historically from a number of localities on the NSW south coast and has been observed in recent years at many sites between Batemans Bay and Nowra (although it is uncommon at all sites). Also recorded at Munmorah  State Conservation Area, Nelson Bay, Wyee, Washpool National Park, Nowendoc State Forest, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park and Ben Boyd National Park.

Habitat and ecology

  • Does not appear to have well defined habitat preferences and is known from a range of communities, including swamp-heath and woodland.
  • The larger populations typically occur in woodland dominated by Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus sclerophylla), Silvertop Ash (E. sieberi), Red Bloodwood (Corymbia gummifera) and Black Sheoak (Allocasuarina littoralis); appears to prefer open areas in the understorey of this community and is often found in association with the Large Tongue Orchid (C. subulata) and the Tartan Tongue Orchid (C. erecta).
  • Little is known about the ecology of the species; being leafless it is expected to have limited photosynthetic capability and probably depends upon a fungal associate to meet its nutritional requirements from either living or dead organic material.
  • In addition to reproducing from seed, it is also capable of vegetative reproduction and thus forms colonies which can become more or less permanent at a site.
  • On the Central Coast of NSW, populations have been recorded in woodland dominated by Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus haemastoma), Brown Stringybark (Eucalyptus capitellata), Red Bloodwood (Corymbia gummifera) and also associated with Large Tongue Orchid (C. subulata) and the Tartan Tongue Orchid (C. erecta).

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
New England TablelandsNortheast Forest Lands Known None
New England TablelandsStanthorpe Plateau Known None
New England TablelandsWalcha Plateau Known None
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Predicted None
NSW North CoastRocky River Gorge Predicted None
NSW North CoastWashpool Known None
Other StateJervis Bay Territory Predicted None
South East CornerBateman Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Predicted None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Sandstones Known None
Sydney BasinEttrema Predicted None
Sydney BasinHunter Predicted None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None
Sydney BasinMoss Vale Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinSydney Cataract Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None